Sunday, April 02, 2006

Liver Me Timbers!

Only Two Bucks for a pound of Chicken Livers? Better be making some crostini then.

photograph picture chicken liver crostini toasts canapes appetizers

It takes very little to transform a bag of slippery chicken livers into a delicious topping for toasts that make a fantastic appetizer or canape to serve at pot lucks or cocktail parties. Think you don't like liver? So did I until I learnt to make this at Tante Marie's Cooking School where even the most ardent liver-detestors in the class transformed their opinions after just one bite. Fred too, who accidentally ate one of my crostini not realising that it was made from the "there is no way you are ever going to get me to eat those chicken livers" he had spotted me preparing earlier in the day, and asked me "ummm, what eez zees?"

I made these crostini to take to an Oscar party at Tony and Michael's house where it was a hit. I know, I know, it was a long time ago, I have been procrastinating for far too long, but I promised one of the guests the recipe, so it is about time I posted it up.

4 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
a handful of fresh sage leaves
1 lb chicken livers
1/2 cup dry white wine
small jar of capers, rinsed
loaf of pain au levain or similar country bread
more olive oil to grill bread
flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

- Trim the chicken livers of all little pieces of sinew and fat. This is my favourite part of the job - they feel so slippery and shiny and smooth, I could happily handle them all day long. How priveleged is a cook to have the honour of performing such tasks?!
- Melt together 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons of olive in a large heavy-bottomed saute pan over low heat.
- Slowly saute the sage and onion in the fat for about 10 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Be careful not to overheat and brown the onions.
- Remove the onions from the pan and set to one side.
- Turn the heat to medium and melt the remaining butter and oil. Add the chicken livers and quickly fry them until they are browned on the outside. Be careful not to overcook the livers or they will toughen and spoil. They should still be pink in the middle and it should only take a few minutes.
- Add the onions and the white wine to the chicken livers. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- The next stage is to roughly blend the mixture to make a coarse pate. I do this with my immersion blender, or you could use a food processor. Be careful not to overdo it - you want a coarse result, not a smooth one.
- Mince the capers and stir them into the mixture along with a generous seasoning of salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- In a large bowl, coat bread slices with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt (I like to use a coarse sea salt like Fleur de Sel). Then grill or broil the toasts before topping with the chicken liver mixture and garnishing with flat leaf parsley.
Be generous with the parsley - it's more than a visual feature, rounding off the taste perfectly.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.

PS. This is an entry for Something out of Nothing over at Toast who is asking for thrifty recipes today. This recipe really delivers - it makes about 24 portions and even though it needs a couple of fancier ingredients like wine and capers, the fact it uses value-for-money chicken livers as its base makes it a great cost-effective dish for entertaining. You can even leave the capers out if you want, and if you are entertaining, then the rest of the wine isn't going to go to waste, is it now?! Read the full roundup of budget recipes here.

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Liver Me Timbers!


  • At 3/4/06 05:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    sam i am definitely going to try this one. everything sounds perfect. i usually have a jar of capers for the ready, so this will be perfect. now if only i could get my boy to try this. your impression of fred cracked me up! :D

  • At 3/4/06 09:38, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My advice, Deborah--is to not tell him what it is.

    I am weird. While I utterly abhor a big chunk of fried calf liver with onions, which my mother adores, and I don't like hunks of foie gras, if you give me some chicken liver or foie gras pate, or Jewish chopped chicken liver or German pork liverwurst, I am all about that, in a very big way.

    It looks wonderful, Sam. I might even give it a shot, but only while Morganna and Zak are away from the kitchen so I might -might- be able to get them to try it while they are ignorant of the fact that liver is in it.

  • At 3/4/06 10:07, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That was certainly a brave decision to use a chicken liver recipe. Personally I love them however most people find eating any kind of offal off putting. For many it also conjures up school dinners, not the nicest memories. However if prepared correctly they can be delicious.
    Congratulations for pushing the boundaries

  • At 3/4/06 14:37, Blogger toan said…

    Yum. Looks tasty!

  • At 3/4/06 19:07, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mmmm give me those chicken livers! Looks very tasty and rustic, just what I like!

  • At 3/4/06 21:35, Blogger Jennifer said…

    Totally random and totally off topic.

    Just had to let you know that one of my second graders wrote me a note this afternoon to let me know he went to "San Fransisgo" for spring break. He told me all about some really big bridge you have there and all the water. Apparently next time I visit I need to go on a really big boat to another building.

    *laugh* Kids.

    Hope things are well and we'll see more wonderful Sam posts soon.

  • At 3/4/06 22:45, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    I love handling food. Your description is sexy. Er, Sixy.
    I'd never be a good restaurant cook, because I like flirting with my knives and cutting boards and the damn food too long.
    (Cranky is a real banger, though. Gets us fed.)

  • At 3/4/06 22:49, Blogger Delphine said…

    Huhu it's soooooooo good: I wanted to do it too and was very happy you posted the recipe until I read the "trim the livers" part.

    Now I have to think twice about it ;)

  • At 4/4/06 08:15, Blogger kishko said…

    yummmmmmmy! the italian recipe i follow is very similar but with the added twist of anchovies. i highly recommend it!

  • At 4/4/06 09:42, Blogger Banlieue Blog said…

    Hi Sam, I thought all Frenchmen adore livers and innards. I remember one of my cooking classes (here in France) where we boiled the pigs head....just tell him it's chicken!

  • At 4/4/06 17:02, Blogger ZaZa said…

    I was going to a gathering of opera students at their Italian coach's house. It was pot luck, and I made a Chicken Liver Canelloni. Everyone raved about it, but no one realized they were eating chicken livers. Except the Italian coach. He winked and joked that, if they knew, they'd be turning up their noses. So true. If silly, but there are some things I wouldn't eat unless I was tricked into it, too, so I can't throw stones.

    I haven't had these in ages. I'll have to get some next time I'm at the market. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • At 4/4/06 18:14, Blogger Molly said…

    Sam, I'm a total sucker for almost anything involving chicken liver, so this crostini of yours looks like pure heaven! Thank you for the recipe.

  • At 4/4/06 20:51, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love chicken liver paté. I think I lucked out, because my grandmother made it all the time when I was a very little kid. It helped that I was too young to recognize it as liver, so I didn't have any preconceived notions when I ate it.

    I now know why it's so good: she makes it with a pound of liver and a pound of butter. Yikes!

    Great post.

  • At 4/4/06 21:29, Blogger Lb said…

    I'll have to try this style some time; I've always used red wine for chicken livers (just made some last week, in fact), so I'm very interested how the white wine turns out. And the capers...

    Isn't it amazing how far a pound of chicken livers can go? I used to make pate, but little else, with them, and it took embarrassingly long to realize how good the leftover pate is with pasta, too.

  • At 4/4/06 22:42, Blogger Estelle said…

    Zees looks delicious! :-) Thanks for the recipe: no more industrial pate for me!

  • At 5/4/06 04:17, Blogger Tracie P. said…

    you would indeed have to trick me too! but i will take your word for it--i'm sure they are delicious:)

  • At 5/4/06 06:43, Blogger Joy said…

    Every time I pop by and see this post, I think of how totally rad it is that you used pirate terminology for the title. Oh, how you rock my world!

  • At 5/4/06 07:29, Blogger Sam said…

    hey joy - I am working on a blimmin' pirate movie, I am paid to look at johnny depp all day long, it can't be helped.

  • At 6/4/06 23:41, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Trimming the chicken livers is also my favorite part! 'Love those wobbly somethings ;) You could try to substitute the white wine with Marsala, each time I feel I need to use one extra tbsp - it's sooo good!

  • At 9/9/09 11:38, Anonymous Jennifer Locke Whetham said…

    I just finished re-reading Real Food-- she recommends organ meats as extremely healthful, but the only recipe I have is for sauteing them and then making a quick pan sauce. I LOVE appetizers, so I plan to make this very, very soon! THANK YOU!

  • At 30/1/10 22:32, Blogger mangojam said…

    was looking for a chicken liver pate and found yours - sounds yummy!
    my question - what happens to the sage leaves once you remove the onions? are they to be blended later too?


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