I haven’t worked with chicken livers much, other than using them in paté, but when I saw a container of them at Flying Pigs’ greenmarket stall last weekend, I was compelled to pick them up. I had no idea what I was going to do with them, and paté was one option that I considered, but as Thursday night approached and I realized I didn’t have anything on deck for dinner, I remembered the container of livers in the fridge and decided to make them the focus of our meal.
I recently saw an episode of one of Lidia Bastianich’s shows in which she used chicken livers and porcini mushrooms in a sauce for pasta. I couldn’t find the recipe on her website or elsewhere online, and the episode in question was no longer on our DVR, so I figured I’d wing it and see what happened. I kept the other components of the dish pretty simple, and I have to say I was very pleased with the result – the sauce was rich and earthy, with a hint of sweetness from the vermouth. Mike made the comment that chicken livers are a bit of an acquired taste, but he still polished off two servings. I think we’ve got another hit on our hands.
Chicken Liver Ragu
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms + 1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, diced
8 oz. chicken livers, trimmed and chopped
1 oz. Italian (red/sweet) vermouth
6 peeled San Marzano tomatoes (fresh or canned), lightly crushed
4 large fresh sage leaves, chiffonade
1/4 cup grated Parmagiano Reggiano, plus additional for garnish
Soak the porcini mushrooms in the hot water until softened, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, squeezing out the excess, and roughly chop them. Strain the soaking liquid through cheesecloth or paper towel to remove any grit and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, season with salt and cook until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook until they have lost their raw color, stirring frequently. Stir in the chopped porcinis and add the vermouth. Allow the vermouth to reduce a bit, and then add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, the tomatoes and the sage. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting salt as needed.
Off the heat, stir in the grated cheese. Toss with hot cooked pappardelle or fettuccine, adding a bit of the pasta water if necessary, and allowing the pasta to finish cooking in the sauce. Top with additional grated cheese.