Chicken liver and onions is a staple in Mom’s and Ma’s (my maternal grandmother) kitchens. The memory of it conjures up a pungent odor and poignant memories. Despite wanting to love it for many reasons – (1) the pure joy on my grandparent’s and parent’s faces as they dug in, (2) my belief in creating as little food waste as possible and (3) it is inexpensive, low in calories and rich in vitamins A, B12 and C and iron. – I do not, at least not in this form.
Cue the chicken liver and tripe, the regular offal in my childhood kitchen, and exit Gina. The smell, the look, and the taste were less than appealing. My relationship and appreciation for the less savory cuts is different today mostly thanks to living in Italy where nose to tail eating is ordinary. Street food like tripe boiled and topped with freshly squeezed lemon is a dish that I crave. It goes by many names in Naples – centupezzi, foiolo, libretto, millefogli, and centopelli – and is the leanest part of the cow’s stomach. I’ll save my offal adventures for another post.
Fast forward to chicken liver pâté. The buttery spread is hard for me not to like thanks to two ingredients; anchovies and capers which are always present in my pantry. The combination softens the strong flavor.
There are endless versions of this Tuscan classic recipe. The cooking liquid ranges from broth or water to marsala or vin santo dessert wine. Some spreads are chunky while others are velvety smooth. Some include a bit of spleen and heart (remember, waste not). Most Tuscan Christmas Day menus begin with crostini di fegatini di pollo and no aperitvo would be complete without it.
I hope that you’ll enjoy my version. It starts with a soffritto of red onion, celery, carrot, capers and fresh herbs. I use water, simple, easy and always available. I’m heavy handed with the anchovy paste. Happy cooking.
- 14 oz. chicken livers
- ½ red onion, chopped
- ½ carrot, chopped
- ½ celery stalk, chopped
- 3 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped
- 2-3 sage leaves, chopped
- 1 sprig rosemary, chopped
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1 Tbsp. anchovy paste (optional)
- a thin loaf of bread for crostini (day old bread is great)
Rinse the chicken livers under running water. Pat dry.
Melt 1/4 cup butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, capers, sage and rosemary. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the liver
Season with a pinch of salt and brown. Continue to cook for around 15 minutes (the liver should remain soft). Add water (2-3 Tbsp.) as needed. Remove from the heat, let cool and run through a food processor.
Incorporate the remaining softened butter into the pâté. Add anchovy paste for the desired level of saltiness.
Slice and toast bread and spread on the crostini. You can make this one day ahead and heat it slightly before serving.