I was extremely honored to host acclaimed chef, Benedetta Vitali. Bene (as friends call her) is chef and owner of Restuante Zibibbo in Florence, Italy. In 1979 she and her former husband co-founded Cibreo where Bene was the pastry chef. Then 10 years ago, she went out on her own, and again, has found tremendous success. I was fortunate to meet Benedetta through my chef and mentor Kim Schiffer. Kim had the privilege to work for her at Zibibbo a few years ago. Many notable chefs, from Tom Douglas to Michael Tusk, favor her exceptionally prepared food. During her tour through California she had cooking engagements at Sur la Table, Quince, Chez Panisse and lucky me…my kitchen!!!
For the next couple of weeks, I will share recipes and tips from my time with Benedetta. Her food is truly extraordinary. It was practically a religious experience eating her pasta with duck ragu. The texture of the pasta alone was so incredible, nothing compared to that pasta coupled with rich and tender duck pieces….ah, see what I mean? Not only is her food amazing, but so is her spirit. Bene believes in the goodness of fresh food and the power of a woman. Where is a picture of Rosie the Riveter when you need it?
Crostini al pate di fegato (or for you and me) Chicken Liver Crostini
Since we had fresh ducks on hand, we did a combination of duck and chicken liver. However, here the recipe calls for just chicken liver. Assembling this was a true art form. Benedetta made quenelles of the pate drizzled with warm marmalade and served alongside toasted bread.
Chicken Liver Crostini
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion minced
1 stalk of celery minced
I carrot peeled and minced
1 1/4 pounds chicken livers, coarsely chopped
4 salted anchovies, boned, rinsed, and coarsely chopped
5 tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons cognac
Up to 1/2 cup meat stock or water
1/4 pound (one stick) unsalted butter
1 pound dense white bread
First, prepare the soffritto. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and saute, stirring often and watching constantly, until the soffrito is a nice golden brown, about 10 minutes. At this point, add the livers, anchovies and capers. Mix well, add the Cognac and only a little salt (because of the anchovies). Cook for about 10 minutes until the livers are pink inside, but have no trace of blood. If you need more liquid to complete cooking, it would be best to use stock.
Remove the pan from the stove and puree the contents, still hot, in a food mill, a food processer or blender. If you use a food mill, you may want to beat the puree with an electric mixer at high speed to obtain a smooth, elegant texture. Mix in the butter, which should melt into the mixture if it has not cooked too much.
To make the traditional wet crostini, cut the bread into rounds about 1/2 in thick with or without the crusts, of whatever size you wish. Toast the rounds well, so that they are completely dry both outside and inside. Otherwise, when the stock is poured on, the toasts will collapse. To serve, put a generous tablespoon of the liver puree on each toast round. Place the crostini on a serving platter. Pour a ladelful of warm stock just before serving. If you prefer, you may omit the stock and serve the crostini dry.