The Michel Family Chicken Liver Paté

Chris and Ouita Michel and I launched a weekly one-hour show, Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio at Lexington Community Radio's WLXU 93.9 LP FM in September 2015. We always begin by reflecting on the best bite or sip we've eaten in the past week. When Chris Michel's family recipe for chicken liver paté showed upon as a best bite for a second holiday season in a row, posting the recipe seemed in order. . . except it's one of those recipes that Chris likes to change up as he uses it. The good thing? I doubt you can go wrong within the framework of what he does from year to year. There's just too much butter involved for the paté to be anything other than scrumptious.

As legend has it, starting from an old Craig Claiborne recipe that his mother used, Chris added an apple, changed cognac to bourbon—we're in Kentucky now, not Long Island, where Chris grew up—and he likes to fool with the butter amount. And he likes to flame the bourbon. I've tried some of these steps, particularly the apple, and this paté is nectar. Umami nectar. 

It's different from my main man's chicken liver paté as possible, and yet both are blissfully good. I could have one for breakfast and the other for supper, and then change the order and do it again the next day. Do try this at home. As a responsible adult I must add: we all agree that this is once-a-year food: you pick the occasion.

Chris said he used this recipe this year:

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken livers
  • 1 onion
  • 1 apple
  • 1 pound butter, fairly firm
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 Tablespoons bourbon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steps

  1. Using some of the butter, cook chicken livers until lightly done. 
  2. Cook onion and apple in butter until very soft. 
  3. Put livers, apple, onion, and remaining ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until silky smooth, adding the remaining butter one tablespoon at a time until fully blended. Mixture will be soupy.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  5. Pour into one or more bowls and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm.

Option: If you know how, you can flame that bourbon over the cooked livers/apples/onions, and then proceed with the blending.

After I asked too many questions, Chris sent me this photo of the original recipe. He says he never fools with the olives and pineapple decor - which sound kind of cute but not easy to get right.