Oh, chicken livers. Be still my heart. We have bought our chickens from Sankow’s Beaver Brook Farm at CitySeed’s Wooster Square market for a while. And for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out where the chickens’ livers go. They are totally absent from the array of meats and cheeses offered by Sankow. A few weeks ago at the market, one of the farm’s employees told me as I was digging through a freezer of chicken, “those are the livers in there.” I had to look twice, but then I looked up and asked, “how many do you have?” She replied there were the two packages in the case, which were each about a pound and a quarter. I said I would take both. She had a twinkle in her eye as she said that they had been putting the livers in the dog food mixture (oh, how it hurts me just to write that) but she had convinced the owners to save these out to sell. To mere humans! Heaven forfend.
I had recently been at the holiday party of an Italian friend living in New Haven and doing research. An amazing cook, Laura had prepared a multitude of dishes from all over Italy. While I have had chicken livers prepared many ways, I was most enchanted by her chicken-liver crostini, which had an incredible depth of flavor, served just warm, on crusty bread. I immediately found all the recipes I could for this Florentine classic, and finally settled, mostly, on this version from Food and Wine. Many recipes call for garlic, or tomato paste, or both, which would add new dimensions to the livers. But I think for those of us who really love chicken livers, this version with the deeply browned onions is best. It doesn’t meddle too much with the wonderful flavor of great chicken livers. I did borrow the idea of sweet vermouth from another recipe—Food and Wine originally called for cognac, which perhaps you should try. But the sweet vermouth adds a faint sweetness and herbal character that I think blends nicely with the sage here.
There is no doubt these are rich—and you may want to halve the recipe when you make this unless you are having a very large party. But if you think you hate chicken livers, this recipe may convert you. And if not, then at least please refrain from feeding the livers to your dog!
Adapted from Food and Wine
- 1 pound chicken livers, trimmed of veins and sinews, patted very dry
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly dried sage, or 8 to 10 fresh leaves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 anchovy fillet, minced
- 1 tablespoon drained capers, finely chopped
- coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup sweet vermouth
- thin rounds of bread cut from a baguette or another similar loaf
1. Toast bread on a baking sheet at 350 F. After first side is toasted (about 5 minutes) flip rounds over to toast the other side, for a total of 10 – 15 minutes. Set aside on serving tray. While toasts are toasting, prep ingredients and measure everything so that you’re ready to make the livers next.
2. In a large, nonstick skillet, melt the butter with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the white onion, sage, and rosemary, and cook about five minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the anchovy and capers, and sprinkle the mixture with a bit of salt and pepper. Saute for about 8 more minutes, until onion is pale golden and beginning to brown. Scrape mixture into a bowl and set it aside.
3. Pour the rest of the olive oil into the skillet and turn heat near high. When oil is about to smoke, pour in chicken livers and arrange in a single layer. Be very careful, and use a spatter screen! Cook for two to three minutes on the first side, until brown with dark brown spots, then flip livers and cook for one to two minutes more. Stir in the onion mixture. Pour vermouth over and light it with a match. (Careful.) Cook and stir until flames subside.
4. Scrape mixture into the bowl of the food processor, fitted with the blade. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, to cool slightly. Then, pulse on and off, scraping sides after every few pulses, until a chunky pate emerges. Taste again and adjust the salt and pepper.
5. Put a healthy dollop of the livers on each round of bread, and serve.