Artusi’s May: Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate
Artusi’s May: Tuscan chicken liver pate
If there was one defining Tuscan recipe for me it might just be the recipe for chicken liver pate served on crostini, generally known in Italian as Crostini di Fegatini, Crostini Neri or Crostini Toscani.
This favourite Tuscan antipasto is rustic, tasty, cheap and sensible (why throw away a perfectly good part of the chicken?) and it features on the menu of literally every trattoria in Tuscany, not to mention on the tables for every birthday, Christmas or other important family gathering in a Tuscan home.
Some even believe that this pate is one of the recipes that Catherine de’ Medici brought with her to France, only to have the French reinterpret this recipe as their foie gras with sauternes.
There are as many recipes for Crostini di Fegatini as there are grandmothers in Tuscany, so this recipe inevitably varies from one household to the next. Artusi’s version is quite different to the one in my husband’s family, which is made with the addition of capers, salty anchovies and walnuts, which give a nice, dark colour. But, as we are here to honour Artusi’s 120 year old recipe, this one is made instead with a soffritto of finely diced vegetables and dried porcini mushrooms to add flavour.
A small adjustment to the original recipe here is the addition of chicken hearts together with the livers – this is optional. You can make it with all liver if you prefer; in Tuscan supermarkets the hearts and livers are sold together so they are often cooked together for this dish.
Tuscan Chicken Liver Pate for Crostini (Crostini di Fegatini di Pollo)
Artusi does not give any measurements in this recipe, so I have tried where necessary to give some indications. This will make about 20 crostini.
- 300 grams of chicken livers (make sure the bitter gall is removed from the liver) and hearts (optional)
- A slice of pancetta, chopped
- 1 eschalot
- ½ stalk of celery
- ½ carrot
- A handful of chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 pieces of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs
- Juice of one lemon
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A thin loaf of bread, such as a baguette for crostini
Finely chop the eschalot, celery, carrot and parsley and sauté these gently in pan with the pancetta in the butter and a glug of olive oil. Season with a pinch of salt. When soft and golden, add the whole chicken hearts and livers. Halfway through cooking (about 3 minutes), remove the mixture from the pan and place on a chopping board together with the softened porcini mushrooms and finely chop everything. Some prefer a smoother pate, in this case you can puree the mixture with a hand blender directly in the pan, but the traditional way is finely chopped and rustic.
Return the chopped pate mixture to the pan and add the broth and finish cooking. This mixture should be quite tender and juicy so do not allow it to reduce too much so that it becomes dry. In the meantime slice the baguette in 1cm thick slices. Some even like to dip one side of the bread in some leftover broth (but this is optional) before spooning a generous amount of warm pate onto each bread slice. Serve immediately.