The Chicken Liver Parfait

Chicken liver parfait and toast isolated on a white background
Chicken liver parfait served with slices of toast. Photo by Philip Kinsey. C/o

The chicken liver parfait is to all intents and purposes a very smooth pate with the possibly the best flavour you can imagine from such a dish. the parfait is a gourmet’s challenge but it certainly adds something a bit special to a party or special occasion. I have it on occasion as a starter at The Ostrich Inn in Newland, in the Forest of Dean. They usually serve it with a couple of small slices of toast which is all that is needed as anything else detracts from the sublime flavour. If you want something which cuts through the fat then some small pickles such as cornichons are ideal.

The parfait is served in a ramekin or a small pot as in the photo. This one doesn’t have the peppercorns on it but they do add a little bit of extra colour. A clarified butter topping is usually added to preserve the parfait and stop it drying out in the chiller.

The chicken livers are becoming more readily available in retailers. A good butcher will have these available too. If brandy is not to your liking then replace it with oloroso sherry which also adds a potent warning kick.

A typical recipe is as follows:-

Preparation time: 20 to 30 minutes 

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Chilling time: 6 hr chilling

Ready in: 7 hours

Serving number: 2


  • 60g unsalted butter, cut into 15g pieces
  • 1 small shallot or onion, finely chopped
  • 250g chicken livers free of gristle and cut into 2cm pieces
  • 60ml brandy or 50ml oloroso sherry (good quality is ideal although at a push I’ve used cooking brandy)
  • 2 tablespoons double cream
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper although a slightly posher version uses 1 tsp of crushed pink peppercorns
  • Optional: 4 -5 sage leaves which are finely chopped
  • Optional: pinch of ground allspice


  1. Place a medium sized frying pan on a medium-high heat.
  2. Dry the chicken livers by patting on a towel and season.
  3. Add 15g butter to the pan. Sear the livers for 3 minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other. Toss occasionally for another 3 minutes, until cooked through. Set aside on a plate.
  4. Over a medium-low heat, add 15g butter, the chopped shallot and sage to the pan. Season and fry gently for 5 minutes, until it all starts to brown and caramelise.
  5. Add the peppercorns and allspice; sauté for 1 minute. Tip in the sherry and simmer until reduced by half, then stir in the cream, lemon juice and sugar.
  6. Return the livers and any resting juices to the pan, stirring everything together, then take off the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
  7. Blend all together to a smooth paste in a blender with 30g butter. Continue to add more pepper and salt, lemon juice and sugar to taste. Pass through a fine sieve; spoon into ramekins and smooth the tops.

Clarified Butter Topping

  1. For the clarified butter topping, warm the butter gently in a pan. Once melted, the milk solids should sink to the bottom. Skim off any scum. Pour a spoonful of the clear butter over each of the parfaits, sprinkle with the crushed peppercorns, then top each with another spoonful of butter.
  2. Cool to room temperature and chill.
  3. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

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