For me, giving thanks begins with appreciating every part of the Thanksgiving centerpiece: the turkey. Turkeys are noticeably plump, often clumsy, and hold their heads proudly cocked. When roasted, smoked, grilled or fried, they are decadent and glorious. But I urge you to look past the festive scene of a long, decorated table laden with food and wine, quivering under the weight of adult laughter while the kids snap dreams into reality over the wish bone. With razor-sharp focus our eyes land on the heaps of freshly carved meat, but we strain to see the less celebrated offerings: the organs and the bones. These parts are as essential to my Thanksgiving meal as they were to the turkey’s life, and keep giving long after the last plate is stacked in the cupboard.
On this blustery Sunday morning, I traveled to The Good Life Farm in Interlaken, NY to wrestle a freshly butchered, thirty pound turkey into the front seat of my car. I find it sensible to order my turkey in advance from a farmer nearby, who’s name I’ve come to know and respect. Melissa raised my turkey in the open air, fed on grass and grubs and other nourishing food that makes the meat healthy and flavorful, and the skeleton and organs even more so! I feel good about honoring this bird’s life.
A whole turkey is nearly always ready for sale with the inside cavity cleaned of innards, organs and other unwanted bits, otherwise known as “offal.” However, farmers like Melissa will often package the organs in a smaller bag and store them inside the cavity along with the neck bone. I always put the neck bone straight into a big Ziploc Freezer Bags, where I eventually add the remaining bones from everyone’s plate along with the picked-over turkey carcass. I store the Ziploc in the refrigerator or freezer for turning into a fine Homemade Turkey (or Chicken) Stock. Stock is a flavor-intensifying, nutrient-packed pantry staple, adding instant boost to any soup, sauce, braised dish and other creation calling for liquid. I usually make my stock the next morning, letting the house continue to simmer with the scent of turkey bubbling into a broth that will last through soup season.
However, the liver is still more prized in its unique and unmatched ability to play two countering roles: defiantly bold and sophisticatedly delicate. Liver is dense in iron, strengthening the blood and bones. When sliced and seared with onions, this organ is deserving of its nutritious punch and penetrating flavor. When whipped with eggs, onions and aromatic herbs, liver becomes a luscious, refined pre-party spread. Pâté takes less than fifteen minutes to prepare, and can be served as an appetizer on Thanksgiving day. If time is short, freeze the liver in a small bag for gracing a future occasion. But please, don’t throw it away.
For more wintry food and holiday fare, visit my free Digital Thanksgiving Cookbook … because every feast we give thanks!
- 1 turkey liver
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (substitute with dried thyme)
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped
- Rinse the raw liver and pat dry. Slice the liver into whatever shape and size you prefer making uniform pieces so they cook evenly.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and add the onions, sautéing until they begin to brown.
- Add the liver and garlic, and saute until it turns from a cabernet color to brown, losing it's sheen. The liver will not take long to cook, and should still be slightly pink on the inside.
- Add the parsley, toss once or twice and remove the pan from the heat.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the onions, liver and garlic with the thyme, hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper.
- Coarsely blend the pâté and then begin adding the olive oil in a thin, steady stream while continuously blending. Every now and then, pause and use a spatula to push any pâté along the sides back down towards the blade.
- The pate should be a smooth, even texture. If it is still chunky and too thick, continue adding a little bit of olive oil.
- Transfer the pâté to a serving bowl to compliment a spread of crackers, cheese and warm olives.
- Store the pâté in a covered container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
No turkey liver? No problem, you can find liver paté online.