We recently had my husband’s family over to our new house for an early holiday celebration, and I wanted to share some of my favorite Umbrian recipes with them. In Umbria it is typical to start the meal with a selection of cheeses and cured meats along with bruschetta, so we started there along with my focaccia and Torta al Testo which is Umbria’s traditional flatbread. I also added some stuffed mushrooms and a platter of buffalo mozzarella with roasted tomatoes and peppers. My next course were two lasagna selections, one using my Umbrian ragu, and the other one combined mushrooms, black truffles, and sausage. My Brother-in-law supplied an amazing porchetta that I paired with sautéed greens, roasted rosemary potatoes, and a big mixed salad of bitter greens. Dessert consisted of my tiramisu, a jam crostata, and biscotti with Vin Santo. Obviously, no one went home hungry, but more important than the food was having the family all together at one table again. With my Father-in-law’s passing a few months ago and my Mother-in-law in a nursing home, we just do not get together as much as we used to when my In-laws were at home.
One of my bruschetta options was a spread of Gorgonzola Dolce topped with a spoonful of Onion Jam which is one of my favorite bruschetta options to serve guests. The other one I prepared was this Tuscan chicken liver pate. Although Tuscan in origin, it can be found across Umbria as well and is one appetizer that I often order in restaurants. My one complaint about the pate served in Umbria is that it has a grainy texture, and they serve it warm which enhances the liver flavor. I grew up eating calve’s liver, but I can’t say it is my favorite food. Chicken livers are much milder than beef or veal liver, however, and I have grown to love this pate.
My version of this pate is pureed until creamy smooth and includes butter, cream, and a splash of Vin Santo which helps to tame the strong liver flavor and creates the creamiest texture you can imagine. I must be honest, that I love this pate so much I COULD gobble it up with a spoon, but I do restrain myself from doing so. Liver is one ingredient that folks either love or hate, so there were a few skeptical diners at my table that politely turned down the liver crostini at first. After some convincing, however, almost everyone tried it, and all agreed that it was creamy smooth and delicious without a strong liver flavor. To serve my pate, I also added a small spoonful of fig jam which finished off the bruschetta perfectly. Add a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves, and you have an appetizer that everyone will enjoy, including those who do not care for liver. This pate can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Deborah Mele 2018
- 1 Pound Chicken Livers, Trimmed of Sinew and Veins, Coarsely Chopped, And Drained On Paper Towels
- 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
- 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- 1 Large Anchovy Fillet
- 1 Tablespoon Drained Capers
- 1/4 Cup Vin Santo
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- To Serve:
- 1 Large Baguette Cut Into 3/4 Inch Slices
- Fig Jam
- Fresh Thyme Leaves
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat the butter until sizzling, then add the livers, and cook the liver until it is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the liver to a plate.
- Add the onion, garlic, thyme, and rosemary to the skillet, and cook, stirring often until the onions are very soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the anchovy, capers, salt and pepper to the skillet.
- Return the liver to the pan and add the Vin Santo.
- Cook until the liquid has reduced by half, then discard the herb sprigs, about 5 minutes.
- Place the mixture in a food processor or blender along with the cream, and process until smooth.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Toast the baguette slices on both sides under a broiler then arrange on a platter.
- Spread the pate generously on each toast slice, then add a dab of the fig jam.
- Sprinkle the tray with fresh thyme leaves and enjoy!