Growing up I never liked liver. We never had it as a main dish, e.g. pan-fried with onions or the like but we’d always had the liver from the turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas cooked up with the giblets – yuck!
Liver is actually a very nutritious food and was revered by our ancestors, along with the entire animal, so-called snout to tail eating, because it, along with other organ meats were understood to be rich in nutrients.
Today, liver isn’t as common as it used to be but instead has lost favour to muscle meat like fish, chicken breasts and legs, pork chops etc. If you’re like me and not a huge fan of liver, then liver pate might be your thing. Seasoned and smooth to the palate, liver pate is a widely more accepted way to eat one of nature’s first superfoods.
Liver pate comes in all shapes and sizes. Liver from any one of several sources can be used such as beef, chicken, goose, pork, and duck. Pate is a mixture of cooked liver, added fat such as lard, herbs, spices, often vegetables with some recipes calling for wine or brandy.
Pate works well as a snack on crusty bread, crackers, or a vegetable such as celery. Pate is often served as dinner or party hors d’oeuvre but it can be used as a sandwich filling to add some flavour or as a nutritious add-on to any lunch or dinner.
Liver, like other organ meats, has been making a come back thanks to the Paleo and Ancestral movement that aims to get reacquainted with foods that humans survived on for millennia. Foods that in part are attributed to the evolution of the larger human brain because organ meats are so nutrient-dense and provided early human brains with the nutrients it needed to reach its fullest potential.
Liver pate nutrition
3.5 oz or 100 g of duck liver for example only has 136 calories but provides the following percentages of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of:
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗕12: 900% RDI
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗔: 798% RDI
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗕2 (riboflavin): 52% RDI3
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗕3 (niacin): 32% RDI
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗕6: 38% RDI
- 𝗩𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗺𝗶𝗻 𝗕9 (folate): 185% RDI
- 𝗜𝗿𝗼𝗻: 30% RDI
- 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗿: 298% RDI
- 𝗖𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗲: 73% RDI
- 𝗣𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗽𝗵𝗼𝗿𝘂𝘀: 27% RDI
- 𝗣𝗼𝘁𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝘂𝗺: 7% RDI
- 𝗦𝗲𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗶𝘂𝗺: 96% RDI
Before anyone screams “toxicity” with those percentages, keep your critical thinking cap on. Liver is enjoyed and has been enjoyed countless people over the eons and even today, there’s no evidence of problematic intake of these essential nutrients
𝗣𝗥𝗢 𝗧𝗜𝗣: liver is one of the best sources of stable folate. Folate found in plant foods such as asparagus and leafy greens is easily lost during prep, cutting and rinsing plants foods can result in up to 50% of folate being lost (as in literally down the drain)
Older adults are at risk of not getting enough micronutrients. Stereotypical meals of vegetable soup and crackers or tea and toast with marmalade are not unfounded. Eating nutrient-dense foods becomes more important than ever
Low calorie, nutrient-rich foods like liver are a great way to get those nutrients. Consider spreading some on your toast or crackers a few times a week and take advantage of nature’s original anti-aging multi-vitamin-mineral
Duck Liver Pate
- 3 oz duck fat
- 1 large shallot, peeled and coarsley chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons
- 1 duck liver (about 3 oz or 100 g), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp brandy
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1/4 tsp herbes de Provence If you don't have a pre-made blend, use thyme, savoury, oregano, rosemary, dried parsley or marjoram
Place duck fat in a skillet, and cook over medium to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes, until the fat has melted and some of it has browned.
Add the shallots, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring occasionally. Add the liver, herbes de Provence, and garlic, and cook over medium to high heat for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and pepper.
Transfer the mixture to a blender, add the brandy (Cognac is most popular), and blend until liquefied. Recipe yields about 1/2 cup. Let cool for at least 1 1/2 hours, then cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Serve the pâté on crackers, toasted baguette slices, or use as sandwich spread. The pâté will keep, well covered, for 3 to 4 days.
Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on anti-aging, brain, and mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.