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Pâté with Cognac

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

By Christopher Hirsheimer

May 9th, 2007

Photo: Julie L. Kessler/Special to S.F. Examiner

A ballerina named Carmeleta Maracci offered this recipe to Alan Hooker, founder of the Ranch House Restaurant in Southern California’s Ojai Valley. “There are those,” Hooker once observed, “who will consider the addition of cream cheese a sacrilege, but it smooths the pâté so beautifully that we disregard the purists.”



  • 6 tbsp. butter

  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

  • Black truffle (optional), shaved

  • ¾ lb. chicken livers

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1 tsp. dry mustard

  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

  • Pinch ground cloves

  • 4 oz. cream cheese

  • 2 tbsp. cognac


  1. Melt 2 tbsp. of the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add scallions and cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, if using truffle, finely chop all but 4 shavings (reserve these for garnish) and set aside.

  2. Add chicken livers and cook, covered, over medium heat until just cooked through, 5–7 minutes.

  3. Remove pan from heat and stir in salt, mustard, nutmeg, and cloves. Transfer to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth, about 2 minutes. Continue to process, blending in remaining 4 tbsp. butter, cream cheese, and cognac. Mix in chopped truffle (if using), then transfer to small bowls or well-oiled molds, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 24 hours.

  4. Serve a generous portion of pâté on a bed of greens with bread, olives, and caper berries, if desired, and garnish with reserved truffle shavings.

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