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Tuscan Chicken Liver Sauce



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A 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 you're talking.
'Every restaurant wants to have foie gras,' Judy Rodgers said. 'I'll use it once in
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 ingredients.'
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 them
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 letting
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 again,
she added a little more wine and oil, then spooned them on rounds of grilled
'I like the mixture to be less homogenized, less of a paste than the way it's served
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 polenta
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 towels and
coarsely chopped
2 to 3 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and
chopped (optional)
 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 polenta, boiled pappardelle or
mashed potatoes.

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 another tablespoon
of oil, and stir in shallots and sage. Cook for about a minute, until shallots
have softened.
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.
Remove from 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
mashed potatoes.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company. Used with permission.

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