Yesterday, the weather was suddenly fall-like, wet and chilly as the rain preceding what had been Hurricane Ernesto made its way to us. By last night as the storm reached us there was sheeting rain and heavy wind, which I watched and listened to from inside my warm, brightly-lit kitchen while I made my first fall meal of the season. I love storms, and being snug and warm in the kitchen with pots bubbling on the stove while outside rain pours, wind blows, or snow falls is one of the most enjoyable things I can think of. It's right up there with one of the other things I like best about stormy weather: lying snug in your bed and reading a good book while the storm rages outside.
I have a pile of recipes set aside just waiting for fall, things like soups and stews and recipes involving winter squash. This recipe with its juniper berries and sage leaves feels completely autumnal to me and a plate of crostini plus salad is a nice meal for a fall night. I have wanted to make this recipe ever since I saw it. The combination of strong flavors -- juniper berries, sage, anchovies, capers, plus pancetta -- instantly appealed to me. I was a tiny bit disappointed that the supporting flavors weren't as evident as I thought they'd be next to the chicken liver, and I think the juniper berry might have been a little more front and center if I'd first crushed it before using it. The recipe didn't call for this but I noticed that all the juniper berries came out of the food processor pretty much intact. Next time I make this I think I will also add about a teaspoon of red pepper flakes which I've noticed in a somewhat similar recipe in the Babbo Cookbook.
This recipe comes from Second Helping From Union Square Cafe by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano, and serves 8 to 16 as an appetizer. It should keep well and I expect the flavor to improve.
Chicken Liver Crostini
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pancetta
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 fresh sage leaves
3 juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon capers, drained
2 anchovy fillets
8 ounces of chicken livers (about 5 medium), trimmed of fat, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 fresh baguette, at least 12 inches long, sliced on a diagonal into 32 1/4 inch thick slices
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a 10" skillet. Add the pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened, but not colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sage leaves, juniper berries, capers, and anchovies and cook an additional 2 minutes.
2. Season the chicken livers on both sides with salt and pepper. Add to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a simmer, and reduce until almost dry. Pour in the stock and simmer until reduced by half and thickened. Swirl in the butter.
3. Transfer contents of the skillet to a food processor and pulse to a chunky puree.
4. Wash and dry the skillet. Place over medium heat, pour in 1/2 cup of the oil and bring it almost to the smoking point. Add as many baguette slices as will fit into the skillet and cook until the slices are golden brown but still soft in the center, 15 to 30 seconds on each side. Drain the slices on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining baguette slices adding oil as needed.
5. Spread the warm chicken liver mixture onto the croutons and serve immediately. Or, put it in a bowl with the toasts on the side and let people serve their own.
There is no picture of my meal because my computer is having issues. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have not lost all the pictures I've taken in the last year. No, I have not done backups. Yes, I know that is stupid.
I was beside myself this morning when Mike's computer also seemed to have gone on the fritz and it appeared that I was to be without computer contact with the world for who knows how long, but his is now working. I have no explanation. I like to think of it as going into self healing mode. If only my computer would.
Edited to add: My computer is working again! Relief, relief, relief! No lost data.
Yet another unphotogenic foodstuff. Sigh.