When Opposites Attract: Chicken Livers And Anchovies

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in: Chicken w/recipe

Surf and turf with penne pasta with caramelized chicken livers and anchovies. Credit: David Latt

In many Italian, Spanish and French dishes, anchovy filets supply a deeply nuanced umami that turns the ordinary into the passionately delicious. Italian puttanesca, Tuscan chicken liver paté and French tapenade are but a few examples that come to mind. Without anchovies they are good. With anchovies they are delicious. Combine skinless anchovy filets with caramelized chicken livers, toss with pasta and dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and surf dances with turf in the most beautiful way.

Pasta is wonderful. Pasta is infinitely variable. Pasta can be complex or simple. For many cooks, the best pasta dish is one that allows the ingredients to shine through with a minimum of sauce. Toss penne with fresh English peas, a bit of oil and garlic, a dusting of cayenne and a fresh grating of Romano and all that is necessary to complete the meal is a crisp Fumè Blanc, a farm-fresh green salad and a dessert of fresh fruit with a nice selection of cheeses.

Chicken livers and anchovies are as different as can be. When cooked properly with a charred exterior and an interior still moist and pink, chicken livers are creamy and earthy with a hint of sweetness.

Anchovies on the other hand have a sharper impact on the palate — salty, raspy and tangy. Combined, they bring out the best in one another.

As with any simple recipe, this dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients. Whenever possible, buy organic chicken livers to avoid the chemicals and antibiotics that can accumulate in birds that are raised in industrial coops. Skinless anchovies packed in olive oil are not overly salty. Because the fish are caught all over the world, experimenting with different brands will lead you to the one you like the best.

Spanish and Italian anchovies are especially good, whether packed in glass jars or in tins. The price can vary from an affordable $2 a tin to well over $15 for a glass jar of the same weight.

Pasta with Chicken Livers and Anchovies

Before using chicken livers, wash and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut away any fat, sinews or veins and discard. Separate the two lobes. Cut each lobe in half, making bite-sized pieces to facilitate even cooking of the livers.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tablespoon kosher salt

¾ to 1 pound pasta (penne, ziti, spaghetti or angel hair)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, washed, stemmed and skin removed, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped

¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed

4 to 8 anchovy filets (the number depends on how much you enjoy anchovies)

1 pound chicken livers, washed, lobes separated, each lobe cut in half

¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed

1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

⅛ teaspoon cayenne (optional)

1 tablespoon olives, pitted, finely chopped (optional)

¼ cup cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered (optional)

Directions

1. In a 2-gallon pot, fill with water to within 3 inches of the top. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Put in pasta and stir well. Allow to boil 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Taste and when al dente, place a small heat-proof cup in the sink next to a colander and drain the pasta, capturing 1 cup of pasta water in the process. Return the pasta to the warm pot and set aside.

3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic and Italian parsley until lightly browned. Using a fork, add the anchovies, dragging them along the bottom so they break apart. Stir well with the aromatics.

4. Add the chicken livers to the pan, using a large spoon to move them around the pan so they lightly brown all over. Be careful not to overcook and dry out the livers.

5. At this point you have some options. You can season with cayenne for heat, add chopped olives for another layer of flavor, stir in quartered cherry tomatoes to contribute liquid and a bit of acid to the sauce and sweet butter for creaminess.

6. Or keep it simple and do one, some or none of the above. In any case, add ¼ cup of pasta water to the frying pan and stir well.

7. Just before serving, add cooked pasta to the frying pan over a medium flame and toss well until heated. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and serve.

Top photo: Penne pasta with anchovies and chicken livers. Credit: David Latt


Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His latest book is "10 Delicious Holiday Recipes." In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times food blog, Bitten, One for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg's travel site and the New York Daily News online.

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Comments

Leonardo
on: 12/4/13
What size is a quarter? A quarter of what? Don't assume all your readers are American. The internet is international.

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