Rich and crisp and gorgeous

Times Staff Writer

THIS recipe for chicken liver crostini from AOC restaurant and wine bar makes a delicious appetizer. The chicken livers are seared to medium rare; added to them are lots of onions, some thyme, butter and balsamic and sherry vinegars for acid. Crisp slices of pancetta garnish the rich liver paste spread on top of thin toasts.

They have a fan in restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila: "The flavors are gorgeous together." *

AOC chicken liver crostini with pancetta

Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Servings: 12

Note: From AOC chef-owner

Suzanne Goin

Chicken liver spread

1/2 pound chicken livers, cleaned

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon good-quality olive oil

2 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice

1/2 large white onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and slightly softened

1/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar, optional

1. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper on each side. Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl the olive oil into the pan and wait another minute. Place the livers in the pan without crowding them (you may have to do this in batches). Sear the livers on the first side for a minute or two until they are nicely caramelized. Turn them over and cook 1 more minute, until they are just medium rare. Transfer them to a platter or baking sheet.

2. Return the pan to the stove, lower the heat to medium and add the pancetta. Cook about 2 to 4 minutes, stirring often until the pancetta is just starting to become crisp.

3. Add the onion and thyme, season with salt and pepper and cook an extra 2 to 3 minutes, until the pancetta is crispy but still tender and the onion is translucent and just starting to color. Transfer the onion and pancetta to a platter or baking sheet to cool.

4. Chop one-third of the livers and add them to a large bowl with one-third of the onion. Place the rest of the onion, pancetta and liver in the bowl of a food processor.

5. Return the pan to the stove over low heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Reduce the vinegar to a glaze, about 1 to 2 minutes, and then pour it into the food processor, using a rubber spatula to scrape all of it in. Puree the livers and then add the butter little by little, pulsing all the time until the butter is completely incorporated.

6. Transfer the puree to the large bowl and fold in the chopped liver and remaining onion and pancetta. Test for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and the sherry vinegar, if using. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

Crostini and assembly

4 ( 1/8 -inch-thick) slices of pancetta, rounds intact

1 baguette

1/4 cup good-quality olive oil, plus about 1 1/2 tablespoons more for drizzling

1 head frisee, cleaned, trimmed and separated

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/4 cup parsley leaves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

About 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper

About 1 cup chicken liver spread

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Arrange the pancetta on the paper and top with another sheet of parchment and then another baking sheet (this will keep the pancetta flat as it bakes). Bake the pancetta 15 to 20 minutes, until crispy. When cool, break the rounds into thirds.

2. Slice the baguette on the diagonal into 12 (one-fourth-inch-thick) slices (there will probably be bread left over). Brush both sides of each slice generously with olive oil, about one-fourth cup in all. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and bake them 10 to 14 minutes, until golden and crispy but still tender in the center.

3. Combine the frisee, green onions, parsley leaves and chopped parsley. Dress with a splash of sherry vinegar, a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

4. Spread the chicken liver mixture on each crostino and top with a piece of pancetta. Arrange the frisee on a platter and then nestle half the crostini among the salad ingredients. Top with a little more salad and prop the remaining crostini on the first six.

Each crostino: 213 calories; 7 grams protein; 14 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 67 mg. cholesterol; 301 mg. sodium.

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