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Kitchen in Tuscany
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Humble Ticket to a Tuscan Treat
By Florence Fabricant
The New York
Times, August 21, 2002
"Foie gras is not a Zuni Cafe speciality. But lowly chicken livers? Now
'Every restaurant wants to have foie gras,' Judy Rodgers said. 'I'll use it
a while, very pure and very special. But I use chicken livers
constantly. Given the
amount of roast chicken we serve, we're guaranteed a
supply. They're fun, and the
cook makes a difference because they're not
delicious enough on their own. They
beg to be bounced off other
To Ms. Rodgers, foie gras suggests France, but chicken livers always take
her straight to Tuscany. 'I start by thinking about the chicken liver
crostini you get
all over Tuscany — the livers seasoned with sage, pepper,
capers, sometimes a
bit of anchovy and spread on bread.'
She took nearly a half-pound of chicken livers, cleaned them and chopped
by hand into a uniform mass. Then she chopped some pancetta.
'I start with about half as much pancetta as livers, sauté it in olive oil
and add shallots until they soften and then bruised sage leaves,' she said.
'Then in go
the livers. It should all be abundantly lubricated, with plenty
of fat. But I
don't want the livers to be fried.'
Capers and sometimes anchovies season the mixture. And lots of black pepper.
Then she splashed in some Chianti.
'The wine allows you to cook the mixture down for 5 or 10 minutes without
it get dry. And it's best if you then take it off the heat and let
it sit, so the flavors
have a chance to meld, then reheat it.'
She threw a crushed bay leaf into the warm mixture, removing it after about
20 minutes, when she reheated the mixture. As the livers came to a simmer
she added a little more wine and oil, then spooned them on rounds of
'I like the mixture to be less homogenized, less of a paste than the way
in Tuscany,' she said. 'It should be really saucy, not dry.
These are knife-and-fork
crostini. This liver mixture is also delicious
spooned over pappardelle or
mashed potatoes or even on a plain
risotto. It likes corn but not cheese, and
it makes a great sauce for
grilled quail. You couldn't do all that with foie gras.'
Judy Rodgers is the chef and an owner of Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.
Tuscan Chicken Liver Sauce
Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings.
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, approximately
3 ounces pancetta, minced
1/3 cup slivered shallots
6 to 8 fresh sage leaves, torn
6 ounces chicken livers, picked over
and finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, preferably salt-packed,
rinsed, pressed dry on paper
2 to 3 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and
1/2 cup red wine, approximately
Freshly cracked black pepper
Salt to taste
1 bay leaf, lightly bruised
Grilled or toasted baguette (not sourdough),
soft or grilled
1. Heat one tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Add pancetta,
and cook, stirring, until it just begins to brown. Reduce heat to low, add
of oil, and stir in shallots and sage. Cook for about a
minute, until shallots
2. Add livers, capers and optional anchovies. Stir, adding 3 to 5 more
table- spoons oil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until livers are
putty-colored but have not become stiff. Stir in most of the wine.
3. Bring to a simmer, and season generously with pepper. Add salt if needed.
Simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until some of the liquid has cooked down and mixture
is thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon but is not dry.
heat, add bay leaf, and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Briefly reheat mixture, adjusting oil, wine and seasonings to taste. Remove bay leaf, and serve spooned over toast or on
polenta, pappardelle or
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company.
Used with permission.
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