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Crostini with Chicken Liver Pâté

Crostini with Chicken Liver Pâté
Here is the quintessential Tuscan appetizer. Rare is the trattoria that doesn't serve crostini. Rarer still is the casalinga (housewife) who doesn't have her own special recipe for them. Whole dinner-party conversations have centered around the debate as to what constitutes the perfect pâté. Among the controversies: spleen (milza) or no spleen. According to one cook, it gives quella punta damaro, a touch of bitterness (without which the pâté is troppo dolce, or too sweet).

Another line of division is the way the ingredients are processed. Home cooks of the old school would always use a mezzaluna and work the ingredients manually. The result is a coarse paste, somewhat more difficult to spread than the smooth (and, they would say, suspiciously artificial-looking) mixture that results from using a food processor or blender. Some add a splash of wine, others a bit of pickled vegetables. Still others have their own secrets with which they will not part. The following is a very fine basic recipe. The baguette slices may be toasted before being spread with the pâté.

Ingredients:

  • 5 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 large chicken livers, trimmed of membranes
      and connective tissue
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup vin santo
  • 2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed, or 2 olive
      oil–packed anchovies
  • 1 Tbs. capers, rinsed and minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, if needed
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small
      pieces
  • 1 baguette, thinly sliced

Directions:

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until lightly fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken livers, season with salt and stir to coat with the oil. Then add the vin santo and let the alcohol bubble away for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook the livers gently, turning occasionally, until they are a deep, rich brown on the outside and tender pink on the inside, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer the livers to a cutting board and slice them open down the middle. Return them, cut side down, to the pan. Add the anchovy fillets and capers, increase the heat to medium-high and continue cooking, stirring often, until the livers are no longer pink, about 5 minutes more.

Using a food processor or handheld blender, process the mixture until it is a thick paste, adding a little chicken broth if it is too stiff and dry. Blend in the butter, stirring until it has melted into the pâté. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread the baguette slices generously with the pâté, arrange on individual plates and serve immediately.
Serves 10.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Tuscany, by Lori De Mori (Time-Life Books, 2001).