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Seared chicken livers with muscatel grapes, sour cherries and biancoperla white polenta


PREP TIME 15 minutes
COOKING TIME 40 minutes

Despite the dominance of seafood across Venice and its islands, the archipelago is also very well known for its delicious handling of liver. The most iconic, traditional dish is fegato alla Venezia – calf livers with onion – famous throughout the whole of the Veneto, if not the entire country. While not as common as their veal counterparts, chicken and duck livers are also commonly enjoyed throughout Venice. Regardless of the type of liver you’re working with, make sure you handle with care. There’s nothing worse than overcooked liver – all it needs is a quick flash in the pan to create a lovely creamy and tender texture.

600 ml (3¾ cups) Chicken stock (see below)
95 g (½ cup) Biancoperla white polenta (any white polenta can be substituted)
4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano
600 g (1 lb 5 oz) chicken livers
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the polenta
2 tablespoons butter
160 g (5½ oz) candied sour cherries, drained (cherries in syrup can be substituted)
160 g (5½ oz) fresh Muscatel grapes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, bring 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock to the boil, then slowly pour in the polenta in a steady stream, stirring continually. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat, then add the Parmigiano and season with salt and pepper.

Pour the cooked polenta onto a baking tray. When it is cold, cut into 6 cm (2½ inch) squares.

Using a sharp knife, remove any connective tissue from the livers, then wash under cold water and pat dry with a paper towel.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 1 minute. Pour the olive oil into the sauté pan and heat until the oil begins to smoke. Season the livers with salt and pepper, place in the pan, quickly brown on all sides, then remove from the pan and set aside somewhere warm.

Turn the heat down to low, add 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and cook until it becomes a nut brown colour. Add the cherries and fresh grapes and turn the heat to high. Add the remaining chicken stock and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the remaining butter.

Preheat the grill, then brush the polenta with olive oil and grill for 2 minutes on each side.

Serve the polenta immediately with the livers, grapes and sour cherries.

Chicken broth
(Makes approximately 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups)

1-1.2 kg (2lb, 4 oz - 2lb, 10 oz) free-range chicken or boiling hen
1 kg (2lb, 4 oz) fresh chicken bones, thoroughly washed
100g (3½ oz) carrot, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) celery stalks, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) leek, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) onion, roughly chopped
100g (3½ oz) Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
3 flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
4 litres (140 fl oz/16 cups) water
fine sea salt, to taste


Place all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer without a lid for 2½ to 3 hours. Skim away the excess fat and other particles that come to the surface of the liquid throughout the cooking process. Remove the chicken, shred the meat from the bones (discard the skin and bones), strain the liquid through a fine strainer and refrigerate. If there is excess fat, it will solidify at the top of the refrigerated broth. Remove this with a spoon before using the broth. The cooked chicken can be used in other recipes. Chicken broth can be made in advance and frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.

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