ffwd: chicken liver gâteaux with pickled onions

Liver Salad

Intrigue? Disgust? Excitement? The buzz around this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie has included all of the above. Rose from One Expat’s Life has tried to nominate this one several times. I was always wholehearted behind the idea, but when we put it to a vote, the community had other ideas. For January, the FFwD administrators picked the lineup, so I took the opportunity to champion this challenging pick.

Personally, I like liver. Well, chicken liver, that is, ground into a paste. Beef liver is another story. In fact, when my parents got married, they made a pact never to cook or serve the nutritious meal of their era, (beef) liver and Brussels sprouts. Everyone, even your own parents, gets a chance to be rebellious in one way or another. It turns out that I’m a big fan of Brussels sprouts, though I could never get behind a piece of beef liver other than to make a batch of dog treats. Yes, I love my dog.

This week’s recipe for chicken liver gâteaux with pickled onions is an elegant starter or lunch. It couldn’t be simpler either.

Pickling Onions

To start, for the pickled onions, you simmer thinly sliced onion in pickling brine for just 10 minutes. I used red onion which gave the brine a slight pink tinge. The spices in the brine were not very noticeable, though the sweet-sour tang of the onions was refreshing. Much more spice is needed.

Unpromising Ingredients

Next, the chicken livers are pureed in a blender along with eggs, egg whites, cream and milk (I used half-and-half), brandy, and herbs. After a couple of minutes, you have a smooth livery mixture. I strained the liquid to eliminate the few remaining lumps.

Ready to Roll

The liver is poured into waiting cups. I tried two different shapes for fun. While the traditional white ramekins were prettier in the cup, the straight sides made them harder to unmold. The ones in the custard cups didn’t look as elegant in the cup, but unmolded more easily and I preferred this shape on the plate.

Taking a Bath

The chicken liver gâteaux are baked in a bain-marie (water bath) for half an hour. They can be eaten warm or cold. I opted to chill them. I tossed some mesclun greens with vinaigrette which served as a bed for the unmolded gâteaux, garnished with pickled onions and, on the suggestion of Mardi from eat.live.travel.write., cornichons.

I served this as a first course before dinner, very special for a Wednesday night! And, appropriately, right before I left for my new French language class (more on that later). It was a hit. The texture was wonderfully smooth, a nice contrast to the tang of rest of the dish: the onions, cornichons, and vinaigrette. I would love to serve this to guests, but it would be depend on the adventurousness of their palates.

The recipe called for only half a pound of liver, and I made two-thirds the recipe because there are only two of us to eat it. Chicken liver comes in much larger quantity than that, so I made my favorite chopped liver pate with the rest: sauteed onion (in chicken fat is best), grated hard-boiled egg, and cooked chicken livers pulsed in the food processor until well-combined, but not completely smooth.

We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. And you can read about what the other brave Doristas thought about their own chicken liver adventures here.

We’re in liver heaven here in Lexington this week. No anemia here!


Posted on 18 January 2013, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Thank you so much for finally putting this one on the roster and I am relieved to hear that I am not the only one who enjoyed it! I stand by my previous statement that “we have to try them all at some point, so why not now” and will continue to champion the underdog recipes.

  2. Betsy, I love your presentation with the cornichons on top and the pickled onions on the side – your plate looks so elegant and delicious and it is nice to read that you enjoyed this interesting and very French recipe!
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Well, I admit, I was a little cautious (mostly because I knew I would never get my husband to eat this with me!), but I’m so glad we did this! I never realized how easy it was to make pate! I love to order it at restaurants, but I never knew how uncomplicated it was. Or how cheap! Your looks absolutely terrific!

  4. You are a far better dog mother than I am. Before this FFWD I had not prepared liver for beast or man in this house. The men simply went next door to Nana’s :) I have to say that the beasts were particularly interested in the prep and cooking of this and I had to move quickly to get photos and keep the dish safe. It was not too bad at all and I am glad for the adventure, though the rest of the family will now have to go back to Nana’s for more…..

  5. I’m thankful for your campaign to get this on the roster. We like liver (and brussels sprouts too) and I’ve been wanting to make paté. We tried this warm but much preferred it cold spread on crusty bread. It was very easy to make wasn’t it? Yours looks delicious!

  6. I was happy to finally get to this recipe (I’ve both suggested and voted for this before). Of course, I don’t read, so initially didn’t realize it was to be served warm. This was a fun week I made my retro version of pâté as well too!

  7. You have a lot of people on team liver with you :-)

    I am glad to have given a shot, even if it wasn’t my favorite thing from the book. There is at least one more liver dish to go (and some pate…)

  8. My mantra all week, as I kept hearing that this Dorista and that Dorista were bailing out, was “Doing this for Betsy. Doing this for Betsy. Doing this for Betsy.” Lo and behold, I loved this. Squishy doesn’t bother me all that much (although I was saying the mantra OUT LOUD while working with the raw livers) and didn’t deter from my enjoying this easy, easy dish. It’s such a lah-de-dah salad presentation for how easily it’s put together. I wolfed down 1 1/2 ramekins with red wine, rustic crackers and, yes, additional cornichons. I shared two ramekins with Michelle, my culinary school-trained neighbor who just e-mailed me her praises. Still have left-overs which I intend to enjoy all week-end. I did go heavy on the brandy, however. I think, despite our grumbling, most of us enjoyed making this and writing about it. Aren’t you glad that we’re getting our numbers up? Doristas are climbing back on board.

  9. Love that I was on Team Liver as Cher calls it! Thanks for nominating it!!!

  10. I was enthusiastic about this one, too. Glad we finally did it! Your chopped liver recipe sounds good, too. Looking forward to hearing about your French lessons.

  11. So glad you enjoyed this. I used ramekins and was not sure how well the livers would unmould, but luck was on my side – for once.

  12. By reading your post I can tell how much you enjoyed this one, Betsy, and I am so glad. I wish I liked liver. I did give it a try though. Your photos are great and I love that first one with the slices of cornichons. Taking a French language course sounds like fun!

  13. Nice! Your dish looks great. I won’t say I wish I had made it, but I enjoyed reading about how much you enjoyed it!

  14. Can’t wait to hear about your French class!

  15. I agree, so simple and yet such a nice first course! Very interested in hearing about your French lessons!

  16. I’m glad you liked it! I skipped this one mainly due to the heat we are having, couldn’t imagine cooking and eating liver when this hot!

  17. While I didn’t like mine, I didn’t really feel like I could taste the spices either… hmmm… such a shame when that happens I think. :) Great job with yours though!

  18. I think the key to enjoying this dish (besides getting past the idea that it is liver) is enjoying the contrast in textures and flavors. Thanks for championing this dish – it was an adventure!

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