Unlike many of my American friends who were tormented by liver as children, I actually do like liver. Well, I do if either my mother or I made the dish. Oh… and I shouldn’t forget that liver breakfast served by the Pegasus hotel in Jamaica. At least, they used to when I frequented that place about 10 years ago. Liver just happens to be one of those dishes that can so easily cross the very thin line between sumptuous and sickening, light and leathery. This is especially true of cow’s liver, which I have been unfortunate enough to dive it only to find myself masticating like a cow! For that reason, I prefer to eat liver only from people whose cooking abilities I can entrust my liver eating palate only to – those who have consistently demonstrated the ability to respect that line of demarcation. Until I discovered liver pate, I thought that was a realm occupied only by myself and the chef at Pegasus. Liver pate is one of those dishes that are remarkably forgiving of overcooking. I’ve never made liver pate myself but have been happily eating it since Anders introduced me to it on my first trip to Denmark a few years back. It is the key part of one of his favorite smørrebrød items.
The Danes eat a serious amount of liver pate. And what’s not to love: dark rye bread topped with slices of warm liver pate, dressed with sweet pickles, bacon and fried parsley. For Anders’ recent birthday party I had the rather ambitious plan of making liver pate as part of the smørrebrød celebration. I had his favorite recipe all worked out – the recipe he inherited from his step mom Maria. However, I sat down to plan all that would be involved in making three different types of smørrebrød for 17 guests, I realized there was just no way I was going to have time to make liver pate from scratch. After all there was fish, frikadeller and sage to fry, shrimp to sauté, radishes, cucumber, tomatoes and other veggies to slice, remoulade and yogurt cheese to make – all for the first time. I used fried sage instead of parsley because we had such abundance in the kitchen garden and besides, I thought one more flavor wouldn’t hurt the rich liver pate.
So in the interest of my sanity, I reached out to a Danish friend who shared the secret to excellent Danish liver pate – T & H Prime Meats, Sausage, & B.B.Q in San Marcos, CA. It was a 20 mile drive that I was happy to make. The owner was as helpful as could be. And because I don’t frequent San Marcos on a regular (or any kind of) basis, I bought not just the two one pound liver pates that I would need but, also bought an extra to keep in the fridge for the next time Anders’ liver pate craving hits him.
- 1 slice rye bread
- 4 oz warm liver pate
- 1 slice crispy fried bacon
- 6 leaves fried sage leaves (recipe below)
- 4 sweet pickles
- 1 pickled slice of beet
- 1 cup sautéed mushrooms
- 1 garlic
- 2 tbs fried onions
This recipe makes two sandwiches. You are now shaking your head in incredulity and saying, “But the ingredients say 1 slice of bread”. The thing is, this sandwich requires only ½ slice bread. You will first cut the bread into two halves, preferably by cutting on the diagonal. It just looks prettier that way.
Spread the bread with butter and then with half of the warm liver pate. Add the entire slice of bacon. Again, you will wonder if the instructions are off. The bacon IS supposed to half off the sandwich. This too is another case of form being as important of function. You see for the Danes, a properly made smørrebrød should look like a piece of culinary art. So go ahead, and add that bacon. Next, add half of the sweet pickles, fried sage and fried onions. At this point we reach the optional ingredients which are a pickled beet and fresh cut cucumber in place of the pickled, although this is more common with cold than warm liver pate.
Cut and sauté the mushrooms in a little butter and mashed garlic.
Repeat the instructions for the second sandwich and eat while still warm. BE warned, you will need a knife and fork for this.
Fried Sage Leaves
- Sage leaves
- ¼ cup olive oil
Place the olive oil in a small sauté pan or pot. Rinse sage leaves and dry with clean towel. The leaves need to be completely dried so don’t rush this step. You don’t want that hot oil splashing in your face.
Add the dried leaves into the oil and fry until crispy but NOT brown – about three minutes per side. The leaves quickly go from crispy to brown and then taste very bitter. So, watch this carefully. Remove the leaves from the oil and place on a paper towel to drain.