My mother was visiting last week on her way back from vacation where she bagged the last three states on her bucket list. Her goal has been to visit all 50 US states before her 90th birthday, which is coming up in November. Add in the five continents she’s also visited, and it becomes pretty clear how I come by my wanderlust.
What’s this got to do with Chicken Liver Sauce, you ask? After her visit, I drove Mom home to the tiny rural town of Marble Hill, in southeast Missouri. Of course, I was delighted to make this 180 mile round trip for Mom’s sake alone. But it didn’t hurt that I could also count on lunch at Shorty’s Chuck Wagon. Except for a mediocre bar-b-que joint called Jay's, and the ubiquitous MacDonald's, Shorty's is all there is for dining out in Marble Hill. It's also all there needs to be. Lunch for me at Shorty’s is always the same -- fried chicken livers, mashed potatoes with milk gravy, homemade buttermilk biscuits, black-eyed peas, and collard greens with fatback. Can everyone say “Amen”?!
I was happy to draw Chicken Liver Sauce in the rotation of pasta sauces. I do love fresh liver. When we get to the Variety Meats chapter, I get it again in the form of Breaded Calf’s Liver.
The recipe calls for vegetable oil instead of olive oil. Out of curiosity I flipped back to the calf’s liver recipe and see vegetable oil again. Being an untrained cook, I never took a class that told me what fats to use in what recipes and why. So, Marcella, I’m hoping you or some trained chef reading this can clue me in. Another question I have is about the teeny-tiny amount of tomato paste dissolved in the vermouth. I have no doubt it's important to the final dish, because nothing could have tasted more perfect to me. I’m just curious about the cooking science.
After cooking the shallot in the oil and butter, I added the diced pancetta and sage. In another minute or two, the ground beef, salt and pepper were stirred in for just long enough to lose the raw red color of the beef. Then comes the chicken livers, also only until the raw color is gone. Finally, the vermouth mixture was added and the whole thing cooked for another 5-8 minutes before a final taste for seasoning.
Marcella says it is magnificent with homemade pappardelle. I made a double batch last week in anticipation of this sauce.
After a dusting of fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano we enjoyed our decadently rich pasta and chicken livers with one of our favorite everyday table wines – A MANO Primitivo from Puglia.