Almost as eagerly anciticipated as our own O.C. Mozza restaurant: Nancy Silverton’s “The Mozza Cookbook” (Knopf, $35), a large tome featuring retooled-for-home-kitchen recipes from Silverton’s growing Mozzaworld.
Though Silverton has written seven other books, “The Mozza Cookbook,” with its hearty reliance on traditional techniques and ingredients, is representative of contemporary cooking—how we want to cook, right now—in the same way her “Breads from the La Brea Bakery” (Villard, 1996) was for bread bakers in its time. Like the bread book, this one is filled with personal stories illustrating how she may not have set out on a direct path for where she ended up, but things worked out pretty well even so.
The new one is eminently useful, and not just for recreating favorite dishes from the restaurant, although there is that aspect, too. The following recipe for delicious chicken liver pâté-topped crostini is a good example. It’s a popular Pizzeria Mozza appetizer, and perfect for making and serving at home. The sharpness of the shallots and capers chopped into the cooked chicken livers is a great complement and contrast to the richness of the pâté mixture.
Silverton calls for either guanciale—cured pork jowl—or pancetta for this recipe, either of which can be difficult to find. Orange County Meat House and Whole Foods locations carry very good La Quercia guanciale, and excellent pancetta from Berkeley’s Fra’ Mani.
Crostini with Chicken Livers, Capers, Parsley, and Guanciale, from Pizzeria Mozza
Just when I think we have perfected a dish, I come across a version that someone has done better, and that’s what happened here. I always thought we did a great job with the chicken liver pâté we served at the Pizzeria, and it is one of the most raved-about items on the menu. The combination of pancetta, lemon, and capers is delicious, and we hand-chop it, which gives it great texture, so I was totally happy with these crostini until I went to the Spotted Pig in New York City and had theirs. April Bloomfield, the chef, served her chicken livers on bread that was doused with—not drizzled and not brushed, but drowned in—olive oil, which made the chicken liver taste that much better. When I came back from that trip, we started doing the same thing, drowning the toast for our chicken liver pâté in the best finishing-quality olive oil we have. After I copied April’s bread, I think our version of chicken liver crostini went back to first place— or at least we’re tied.—Nancy Silverton
(Makes 2 cups pâté, 24 crostini)
1 pound chicken livers
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons brandy or Cognac
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons capers, soaked for 15 minutes if salt-packed, rinsed, and drained
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
12 thin slices guanciale or pancetta (about 6 to 8 ounces)
24 Crostini Bagnati (recipe follows)
Use a small knife to remove connective veins from chicken livers, and place livers on a plate lined with paper towels. Pat with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Season generously with salt and pepper, toss to coat with seasoning.
Heat 1⁄4 cup olive oil in large sauté pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking, 2 to 3 minutes. One by one, carefully add chicken livers to pan. (Livers will shrink immediately. Added this way, all should fit in pan at the same time.) Cook about 3 minutes per side, until deep brown. Add chopped pancetta, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until fat is rendered from pancetta. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add brandy or Cognac, stir to deglaze, and cook about 30 seconds to burn off alcohol. Turn off heat. Turn contents of pan out onto large cutting board, making sure to get all the bits out of the bottom of the pan.
Pile parsley, shallots, capers, and lemon zest on top of liver mixture. Drizzle with lemon juice and 1⁄4 cup of olive oil. With large knife, roughly chop several times. Drizzle another 1⁄4 cup olive oil over, continue chopping, gathering ingredients into a mound from time to time. Add remaining 1⁄4 cup olive oil and chop to coarse paste, almost puréed.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate up to three days. Bring to room temperature before assembling crostini.
When ready to serve crostini, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees.
Place the guanciale or pancetta slices on a baking sheet and cook in oven until cooked through but not crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
To assemble, spoon heaping tablespoon chicken liver spread in an uneven layer on crostini, leaving edges exposed. Garnish with guanciale or pancetta.
24 1/2-inch slices from a loaf of rustic white bread such as ciabatta, cut on bias
Extra-virgin olive oil, for bread
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons finishing-quality extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon sea salt or another flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 350 degrees, or preheat sandwich press.
Place bread slices on baking sheet, brush tops with olive oil, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Alternatively, brush both sides of bread with olive oil and toast in sandwich press. Remove from oven, rub oiled side with garlic, drizzle with 1 tablespoon finishing-quality olive oil, and sprinkle liberally with sea salt.