I didn’t grow up eating chicken livers. I don’t even think that my mother tried to feed them to us. As an adult I did develop a taste for patè-the chunky country style French type-but it wasn’t until our first trip to Italy that I became acquainted with the creamy spread found throughout Tuscany. We were dining in a small osteria in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence and ordered an antipasto platter. We were presented with a ceramic platter with five small bowls, each filled with a different topping, and a basket of crostini. Four of the bowls held vegetable spreads, each more flavorful than the last. The final bowl was a chicken liver spread, served slightly warmed. One bite and I was won over. As soon as we returned from our trip I searched for a recipe and came up with this one from Cucina Rustica by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman.
Chicken Liver Spread with Juniper Berries
1 pound chicken livers
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 or 3 slices proscuitto, chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 bay leaf
5 juniper berries, ground to a powder with a mortar & pestle (or in grinder)
1 large garlic clove, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon capers
Clean and chop livers. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a skillet over very low heat. Add the chicken livers, prosciutto, sage, bay leaf, juniper berries, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Let cool. Remove bay leaf. Chop very finely with a chef’s knife or in a food processor with steel blade, pulsing quickly. Turn into a small bowl. Garnish with capers. (I like to add the capers to the spread before it’s pulsed).