There’s very little I don’t like to eat. I genuinely love food in all forms. However, I really do not like okra and I would rather starve than eat goat’s cheese in any form, but apart from that I will eat with impunity. I based this blog around recipes I know very well, have cooked many times and I love to eat. With that in mind, it might surprise you to know that, even though I am featuring it as a recipe, I am not a huge fan of chicken liver parfait. I will taste it gladly if offered, but I would never order it from a menu. I do love a taster of the rich, gamey silkiness, but it is too rich for me to eat a whole serving. Yes, I did write that.
The reason I am including this recipe is that I do believe there are staples which it makes sense to know very well, because even if you are not a massive fan of it, you can guarantee someone else will be. In addition to this, parfait is a fantastic starter to make if you want to be super-organised and efficient. It is very quick to make and very cheap, but the best thing is that it can be left for up to week in the fridge and only needs to come out 20 minutes before you want it to take the chill off it. I serve it with toasted sourdough and cocktail gherkins; simplicity itself. Around Christmas time in particular, you will be weeping tears of gratitude you chose to make this.
I happen to make chicken liver parfait quite a lot, mostly as an alternative to any fish starters that I make for my fish-hating other half when we have people over for dinner. What I have noticed is that not only does he love it, but nearly every time my guests notice that there is an alternative to the fish starter I have lovingly prepared, I will be asked if there are any more portions available instead. You see, someone always loves chicken liver parfait. There always are surplus ramekins of it around, as it’s impossible to make less than six at a time.
The dish is rich and elegant with a silky smooth texture that so many people love. Chicken livers should not be feared-they are very easy to cook, the only tip is not to overcook them, as they will taste grainy in the end product. A few minutes on each side, so they are still slightly pink in the middle is about right.
This recipe is for a parfait (French for perfect), rather than a paté as I undertake the rather arduous task of sieving the pureed mixture before potting it to get it super smooth and silky. It is not difficult, just time-consuming. If you really can’t be bothered with this step, it’s not compulsory, but it does make a big difference to the end texture.
Chicken Liver Parfait
400g free range chicken livers
2 sprigs thyme
300g very soft butter
100ml madeira (you can use port, marsala, even dry sherry at a push)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely diced
6 small bay leaves (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Fry the garlic and shallots gently in a large frying pan with a little butter until they soften, but not colour. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
2. Add a little more butter, heat until foaming and add the chicken livers and the thyme. Fry on all sides for a few minutes.
3. Add the madeira and bubble for a few minutes. Check the livers are still a little pink in the middle.
4. Remove the thyme stalks from the livers.
5. Tip the cooked onions and garlic and the chicken livers into a food processor and blitz for a few seconds.
6. Add 200g of the very soft butter and process until no lumps can be seen.
7. Taste and season.
8. Push the mixture through a fine sieve. Taste again and divide into 6 ramekins. Do not fill up to the top, as you need to cover them with clarified butter.
9. Melt the remaining 100g butter in a pan, allowing the milky whey to sink to the bottom.
10. Pour the clear yellow part of the melted butter onto the top of the parfait so it is covered.
11. Allow the butter to set slightly and press a single bay leaf onto the top of each covered ramekin.
12. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, removing 20 minutes before you want to serve.
13. Serve with piles of hot toast and pickles.