Gnocchi with Duck Liver and Porcini
The tajarin the other day got me doing some research into Piedmont cuisine and I found that an old favorite of mine, potato gnocchi and chicken liver sauce (salsa di fegatini) is an ancient combination that's popular there. Elizabeth David, in Italian Food, offers a typically succinct recipe for the sauce: "1/2 lb. of chicken livers, a few dried mushrooms, flour, Marsalla, stock, butter....Cook the [chopped, floured] chicken livers in butter with the [reconstituted] mushrooms. Season them with salt and pepper, pour over 1 sherry-glassful of Marsalla or white wine. When this has reduced, add 1 cupful of chicken or meat stock and simmer the sauce until it is thick."
When I stopped at the Super 88 Asian market the other day I came away, as I often do, with a half-pound container of fresh duck livers, so I decided to make the sauce with them. I usually make my own gnocchi (slavishly following Marcella Hazan's recipe in The Essentials of Italian Cooking) but a couple of weeks ago my friend Joe and I stopped at Micucci's Groceries in Portland -- a wonderful shop full of Italian specialty foods and wholesale quantities of things like porcini and dried spices -- and I spied some great-looking gnocchi in the freezer. They looked so much like the ones I make that I couldn't resist. I guess I'm getting lazy!
The sauce is an adaptation of the basic David formula, with the addition of some fresh tomatoes and rosemary.
Duck Liver Pasta Sauce
3 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs rosemary, minced
8 oz chicken or duck livers, cut in 1/2" dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 cup wine
1 cup chicken broth
hot sauce, salt to taste
truffle oil (optional)
Soak the dried mushrooms about 10 minutes in hot water. Carefully lift them from the liquid with a slotted spoon and rinse briefly to remove any grit. Strain and reserve the soaking liquid, leaving the last half-teaspoonful (with any remaining grit) in the bowl.
Sauté the onion in some olive oil on medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Lightly salt the liver and toss in the flour, shaking off excess, and add to the pan. Raise heat and brown the liver, stirring. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, rosemary, half the garlic and the wine and reduce quickly, stirring. Add the broth and the mushroom liquid, lower heat to medium, and cook uncovered about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Correct seasoning and add the remaining garlic just before serving. Serve with gnocchi or pasta, drizzled with the optional truffle oil.