Growing up, I always called dibs on the gizzards whenever my mom roasted or fried up chicken for dinner. Unlike the chalky livers and slippery hearts, the gizzards were deliciously chewy and mostly neutral in taste. A quick sear with a sprinkling of salt and pepper made for a side dish that oftentimes surpassed the main course. Although I favored gizzards above all in the giblet sack, sometimes a hunk of liver would mistakenly pass my lips—once offals have been chopped up and sauteed, they start to look a lot a like! While I endured liver on those occasions, I never found it remotely pleasant.
Things started to look up for liver and me on a visit to Pizzeria Mozza last fall. I went on a whim that evening and ordered the much-buzzed-about chicken liver bruschette. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one bite and I was completely taken. The pate tasted like the liver I loathed as a kid, but the bright and savory notes alongside it provided depth and interest. This pate had soul.
Thanks to Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times, I can now whip up Mozza’s unparalleled chicken liver bruschette whenever the mood strikes. “We love the rustic texture of this chicken liver pate, which is coarsely chopped by hand,” wrote Carter. “We also love the way the richness of the liver is complemented by notes of garlic, capers, and pancetta.”
My beloved gizzards had better watch out because chicken livers are definitely gaining ground.
- 1 pound chicken livers
- Coarse salt and finely ground pepper
- 3/4 cup best-quality olive oil, divided, more as needed
- 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons capers (preferably salt-packed), rinsed and drained
- 1 lemon, zest finely grated, and 1 tablespoon juice
- 16 slices toasted bread
Clean the livers: Use a small knife to remove the connective veins from the chicken livers and discard the veins. Line a large plate with paper towels. Place the chicken livers on the paper towels and pat them with a wad of paper towels to get out the excess moisture. Season the livers very generously with salt and pepper, gently massaging in the seasoning with your hands.
In a large saute pan heated over high heat until it is almost smoking, add one-fourth cup olive oil. One by one, add the chicken livers. Adding one at a time prevents the pan from cooling too much, and it ensures you will have room for all of the livers because they shrink immediately when they hit the pan, allowing more to fit. Cook the livers until they’re a deep brown, about 2 minutes on each side.
Add the pancetta to the pan with the livers, reduce the heat to low, and continue to cook until the pancetta fat is rendered, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute.
Stir in the brandy, shaking the pan to deglaze, and cook the brandy for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat.
Dump the contents of the pan onto a large cutting board, making sure to get all the flavorful bits from the bottom of the pan. Pile the parsley, shallots, capers and lemon zest on top of the chicken livers and drizzle over it the lemon juice and one-fourth cup oil.
Chop everything together coarsely with a large knife. Drizzle over another one-fourth cup olive oil and continue to chop, regathering the ingredients into a mound from time to time. Continue to chop until the livers are the consistency of coarse paste, almost pureed but with more texture. Add additional olive oil as needed; the livers should be moist and glistening but not so loose the pate won’t stand up.
Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate before using. At Mozza, the pate is served as bruschetta over crostini (toasted bread brushed with a little olive oil and rubbed with garlic cloves) and topped with guanciale; they also recommend serving it topped with pancetta or a sprig of parsley.
The pate can be made up to a couple of days in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 16 crostini. [For Printable Recipe Click Here]