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Experiment – Courgette Flan and Chicken Livers:
This dish is a variation on a theme. The theme was set by Anna Binni at a recent blogging event hosted by Tuscany Now. Some of what we ate was quite familar and I was really interested to discover how to make the chicken liver dish for that reason.
We feasted on chicken livers cooked much as Anna showed us when I visited Tuscany. For the most part they were chopped up a bit more and served on bruschetta or on polenta, which was a great way to soak up the fabulous juices.
And, while I liked the pastry free flan (which I believe is called sformata or sformato in Italy) it’s nearly impossible to find courgette flowers here unless you grow them yourself. And even if I had some, I’d want to make courgette flower fritters (which would be fabulous to serve with the dish!). So I wanted to add something to give that slightly floral taste I think the flowers are intended to provide. The solution was easy for me. I still have some fennel pollen from Global Harvest and I had been planning to try using a little in a béchamel. This was a perfect opportunity. I think making your own bechamel really helps to get a light consistency. I used semi-skimmed milk too and drained the courgettes a bit more carefully than on the evening by using kitchen roll to absorb as much of the fat as possible while still keeping the lovely buttery olive oil taste.
Finally, I generally cook for one or two people. So, instead of making one big flan, I reduced the quantities a bit and made small flans! I’ve discovered they do keep very well and are great for a quick lunch, either at room temperature or just warmed up a little.
Without further delay, here’s what I did
- 400 g chicken livers
- 1 shallot very finely chopped
- 1 glass red wine
- 2 anchovies
- 8 medium slices good rustic bread
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 50 g butter
- 2-3 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 8-10 small courgettes Cut into batons
- 50 g butter
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 220 ml milk
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 30 g butter
- Pinchfennel pollen
- 2 eggs
- 50 g parmesan grated
- Pinchnutmeg freshlly grated
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable stock powder Marigold bouillon might work here, I like e-cuisine because it is not too salty
- 1 handful flat leaved parsley chopped finely
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- Make the Bechamel by melting butter and blending in the flour over a low heat
- Add the fennel pollen and vegetable stock powder to the milk and warm gently (I use my microwave for this!)
- Blend the milk into the flour and water roux bit by bit, stirring constantly
- Bring to a gentle simmer stirring constantly till you have a thick, gluey mixture
- Cover the bechamel and put to one side
- In a pan put ½ glass of water, 50g butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, diced courgettes garlic and shredded parsley. Cover the pan and cook on a high flame for 5 minutes.
- Take the lid off and keep stirring so that the liquid evaporates. Once the courgettes are cooked, drain in a kitchen paper lined colander, chop the mixture finely and mix with the béchamel, add a pinch of nutmeg, 2 eggs and mix carefully. Add the grated parmesan at the end.
- Butter the ramakins/pudding dishes and then line with fine breadcrumbs. Fill the dishes with the flan mixture about 2/3rds of the way up
- Bake in a hot oven (200-200c) for around 20 minutes, till the flans have risen and the tops are nicely browned
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning them out of the tins
- Wash the chicken livers thoroughly and cut them into small pieces. Put them in a pan with the butter, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and shallot. Sautee on medium flame for approximately 15 minutes with the lid on.
- Take off the lid and turn the gas to maximum and keep turning and sautéing them. When they are nicely done deglaze the pan with a little wine (I used red wine). Repeat this process 3 times, scraping off the caramelised meat from the pan sides into the sauce.
- Add the anchovies, stir well, add the lemon juice and continute to cook with the lid off for a further 10 minutes, stirring often. Check the flavour and season with salt and pepper to taste
- Brush the bread slices with oil and if you like rub with a cut clove of garlic. Toast them on the grill or on a hot griddle
- Serve the chicken livers on the toasted bread with the flan to one side
I’d be quite happy to make the chicken liver dish to eat with polenta too. Or, to serve the courgette and fennel pollen flans with a simple tomato sauce or salad. It was VERY good and I am planning to try some variations with the fennel pollen, which worked very well in the bechamel. I suspect Anna would despair as I cut out most of the use of stock cubes and instead used a little vegetable stock powder in the flan which I could adjust easily. I did taste the mix though before cooking and decided it didn’t need any more seasoning. I used red wine instead of white in the chicken liver dish to add some depth and I tasted as I cooked and it seemed quite rich enough with the wine and anchovies. The result was a lighter, more delicate flan and a well-flavoured chicken liver dish I hope without losing the essence of the recipe;) Nevertheless, this is my entry for the Tuscan Cookery Challenge hosted by Tuscany Now