Monday, February 13, 2012

Little Crusts of Bread

When I first posted this, I made a mistake and left out the anchovy paste in the ingredients list. I've corrected that below. PW, August 27, 2013

Crostini are generally little slices of bread toasted or fried in butter. The word comes from crosta, the Italian for crust. The “ini” means little, thus crostini means little crusts. These little pieces of toast can be served alongside a nice minestrone. Or they can be topped with tasty morsels of meat, vegetable or cheese. Throughout Italy, these tidbits are served as part of a first course in restaurants or as a snack to accompany drinks at bars in the afternoon.

They have become extremely trendy around the world in recent years. Just do a Google search and you’ll find hundreds of recipes, ranging from a simple blue cheese and fig to a more elaborate ham and cheese concoction.

Here in Rome, I’ve been served crostini laden with toasted cheese, sausage and other heavy toppings that, frankly, were too rich for my tastes. I favor those from Tuscany, especially the ones made with chicken livers.

Chef Giuseppe Alessi
Chef Giuseppe Alessi of Florence makes delectable crostini using simple ingredients like fresh chopped tomatoes seasoned with capers and parsley, bound with an emulsion of butter and olive oil. This lovely topping is spread on thin, toasted bread and garnished with tarragon.

He makes other crostini with dried porcini mushrooms soaked in water, flavored with garlic and onion, and cooked for about ten minutes. The mushrooms are then blended into a paste before being spread on those same little pieces of toast.

But Chef Alessi’s greatest crostini are the traditional Tuscan ones made from chicken livers.

Chicken Liver Crostini
Crostini di Fegatini alla Toscana

4 whole chicken livers, cleaned of connective tissue
1/2 onion thinly sliced
1 tablespoon pickled capers
1/2 bullion cube
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons soft butter
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Put the oil and onion n a small, heavy frying pan and let them cook for about 5 minutes, until soft. Add the chicken livers and brown on all sides, taking care not to let them burn.

After another 4-5 minutes, add the bullion cube and the white wine, stirring to allow the cube to dissolve and the wine to evaporate.

After 2-3 minutes, add 1 tablespoon of the butter, the capers, the anchovy paste, and a pinch of pepper.

Keep stirring while increasing the heat for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and mix until you have a thick puree. Taste for seasonings and add capers, anchovy paste, salt, or pepper as needed. Process again until very smooth.

Serve on fresh slices of bread.


Kath said...

Trust the Italians to make an open faced sandwich into an art form that makes me drool! Thank you.

Patricia Winton said...

I love this chicken liver spread. I have some in the fridge this moment. Thanks for dropping by.

Heidi Noroozy said...

This recipe looks delicious. I will definitely try it. The first version you mention from Chef Alessi reminds me of something a friend of mine from Spain used to make for breakfast. He'd toast a baguette, rub it with a slice of raw garlic, rub it again with half a ripe tomato and finally sprinkle on some olive oil. I don't remember what he called it but it was perhaps a Spanish form of crostini.

Patricia Winton said...

Oh, yes. I like that, too. Do try the chicken livers. They are outstanding.

Polly Iyer said...

Liver is one of those things people either love or hate. There's rarely an in-between. I love them on the rare side. This sounds wonderful. Your food posts always make me hungry.

Patricia Winton said...

It's interesting. I don't particularly like liver in other forms, but this combination really works for me. I like to put slivers of Parmesan on top!