Before April Bloomfield took over the world, she was just a Brummie with a good CV and a thing for pig’s ears. Shipped in from England to helm a low-key corner restaurant in New York’s West Village neighborhood, this River Café alum created the Spotted Pig (maybe you’ve heard of it) and helped usher in a new era of dining in New York. Going out for killer food no longer meant postponing your annual contribution to your IRA or tolerating a table of I-bankers on their third bottle of Premier Cru. It no longer even meant having dinner. Instead, you could perch ridiculously on tiny stools or, if you were lucky or a VIP, lounge in booths while snacking on featherweight gnudi drenched in brown butter and knocking back old-fashioneds at 1:30 a.m. within earshot of Jay-Z.
The Spotted Pig was practically designed for Chef ’s Night Out. In fact, even a dozen years in, the place still hosts informal, unrecorded versions of the show nightly, when cooks from the city’s various hot spots wipe down their stations and converge on West 11th Street for Roquefort-topped burgers, smoked haddock chowder, and pints of cask beer. If you’re patient or connected, you’ll score a table.
If you’re wise, you’ll make sure that table fields several plates of Bloomfield’s chicken liver toasts.
Like so much of what April cooks, they’re essentially simple. The magic is in the details. There’s the well-browned exteriors of the livers, encasing slightly pink insides, just the thing for maximizing flavor and smooshability. There’s the careful smooshing; so some is creamy, and some is still chunky. There’s the finely tuned balance between the sugar of port, not to mention the more subtle sweetness of sautéed garlic and shallots, balanced by the acidity of madeira. If you skimp on the bread quality, if you don’t toast it so it’s still soft in the middle, if you don’t hit the slices with a generous slug of olive oil, lord help you.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over high. When it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until they’re golden brown, about a minute. Add the madeira and port to the pan and give it a good shake, then scrape the mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
- Rinse the pan and wipe it out well, then set it over high heat and add 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the chicken livers to the pan. Cook until the undersides are golden brown, 1½ minutes or so. Carefully turn over the livers, sprinkle with salt, and give the pan a little shake. Continue to cook the livers just until they feel bouncy, like little balloons, about 30 seconds more. You want them slightly pink inside, not rare.
- Turn off the heat and add the shallot mixture, liquid and all, to the pan. Shake the pan, stirring and scraping it with a spoon to loosen the crispy brown bits on the bottom, then scrape the contents of the pan into a bowl. Let it all cool for a few minutes.
- Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the liver mixture and sprinkle in about 1 teaspoon of salt flakes and a couple of twists of black pepper. Use a large spoon to chop, stir, and mash the livers until some of the mash is creamy and some is still a little chunky. Coarsely chop the parsley, add it to the liver mixture, and give it all a good stir. Let it cool to room temperature.
- Toast or grill the bread until crispy but still a bit soft in the middle. Drizzle the toasts with a little olive oil, spread on a generous amount of the liver mixture, and serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from MUNCHIES by JJ Goode, Helen Hollyman and Editors of MUNCHIES, copyright © 2017, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.