There are as many recipes for crostini di fegatini as there are cooks in Tuscany but the preparation is similar, with just a few personal tweaks here and there. Usually, salted anchovies, capers or both are present – they provide that trademark Tuscan saltiness.
The liquid used to cook the livers in and soften the pate can change from red wine to stock to water or – the one I prefer – vin santo, Tuscany's favourite dessert wine (marsala or sherry could be used instead). A good secret that a chef in Florence once let me in on is to add some walnuts to the livers – it lends the pate a nice, dark colour, as liver tends to cook to an unappealing greenish-grey colour.
Occasionally, a thicker pate might have the addition of white bread. And, more rarely, a soffritto of carrot, celery and onion makes its way into the mix. This later version is how Pellegrino Artusi instructs making these crostini in his 1891 cookbook, along with pancetta and dried porcini mushrooms – unorthodox ingredients now. It is a wonderful version, albeit more delicate than the flavourful, rustic one you'll usually see on tables today. Artusi's is chopped roughly with a mezzaluna, another part of the process that can change the appearance and texture of crostini di fegatini across Tuscan kitchens. Some like it smooth and some like it chunky. Some go half way.
You'll also find that often this pate is made with the addition of a few chicken hearts together with the livers, simply because they are often sold together. Waste not want not.
The classic Tuscan antipasto would not be complete without crostini di fegatini. Serve them together with a charcuterie platter, perhaps with some paper thin slices of prosciutto, finocchiona (a fennel seed studded large, soft salame) or other salumi and wedges of pecorino cheese. —Emiko
about 20 crostini
medium onion, chopped finely
anchovy filets, drained of oil
capers, rinsed and pat dry
(500 grams) of chicken livers, and the odd heart or few if you have them
125 milliliters vin santo (or sweet Marsala)
salt and pepper
1 baguette or country loaf, sliced and dried out in the oven
In a wide skillet, cook the onion gently in the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter until soft and translucent. Add the capers and anchovies and continue to saute until the anchovies melt down.
Add the chicken livers (and hearts if using) and saute until browned on all sides, then add the vin santo. Cook on low, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, adding water if necessary to keep the mixture moist. Season with salt and pepper and add a tablespoon of butter.
Transfer the hot mixture to a food processor or blender and blend until mostly smooth (or all smooth, if you prefer that consistency). You may need to add a bit of water to get the mixture to a paste-like consistency, depending on how much it has reduced during cooking.
Place heaped tablespoons of the pate onto the bread and serve. These are undoubtedly best served warm but room temperature is fine too. If you prepare the pate ahead of time, simply warm up in a skillet (perhaps with a splash of water) until hot and serve.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.