Thursday, September 17, 2015

Spaghetti Caruso

A nice pasta named after a great Italian opera tenor!
     A New York Italian chef informed that today's pasta recipe was a favorite of the great tenor Enrico Caruso.  It was explained that the chicken livers and pasta actually added resonance to the great tenor's voice.  This background information may be true, because there is substance to the story.  Offal items like liver do have a way of providing a feeling of enrichment, which in turn deepens the voice.     
     There is very little documented information about Spaghetti Caruso to be found in encyclopedic culinary resources, but then again not all culinary history is scribed in stone.  Chefs in many cultures prefer to pass along culinary knowledge in person via spoken means.  This is especially true in Italian restaurant kitchens.    
     It is not known whether Spaghetti Caruso is a traditional recipe from the old country or whether it is an Italian American recipe.  Spaghetti Caruso could be a chef's creation or it could have originated as a customer request from the great opera tenor himself.  All that really matters is that Spaghetti Caruso tastes great!  
     I learned today's pasta recipe while apprenticing with a couple of great Italian chefs who were absolute perfectionists.  Spaghetti Caruso was on the restaurant menu, but it was not a big seller.  Sometimes it is good to place an item on the menu that has limited appeal.  I noticed that the same customers returned to the restaurant time and time again just to order Spaghetti Caruso.  There was no other place in town that offered a similar pasta or any item made with chicken livers.  One might say that Italian pasta restaurant cornered the chicken liver market on a small scale. 
     About 5 years ago a gourmet offal trend started to take place in the restaurant industry.  Unfortunately this trend was limited to high end fine dining restaurants and there was no trickle down effect.  Most casual restaurants continued to avoid offering offals of any kind on the menu, so the gourmet offal trend faded into the background.  This is unfortunate because there is a niche marketing sector of consumers that seek something like a good liver entrée on a menu.  
     A restaurant that caters to niche markets easily inspires customer loyalty with a few clients that seek this venue, who in turn spread the good word to peers with similar taste.  Today's Spaghetti Caruso pasta sure does give chicken liver fans plenty to talk about!       
     Spaghetti Caruso: 
     This recipe yields 1 large serving or 2 small portions!
     Like most a la minute Italian pasta recipes, the chicken livers and sauce can be made in the same amount of time that is takes to cook the pasta.
     This is one of the few Italian recipes that requires a flour slurry to thicken the sauce.  Flour slurries should only be used for sauces that are made to order, because the slurry will separate after a short time.  Flour slurry also mellows the flavor of a sauce and this benefits a sauce that contains copious amounts of chicken liver.  
     A non-stick surface sauté pan cannot be used for this recipe, because the livers are sliced while the finish cooking in the pan.   
     Step 1:  Cook 1 large portion of spaghetti pasta in boiling water over high heat, till it is al dente.  (about 8 to 10 minutes)  The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks!
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
     Add 8 ounces of cleaned trimmed chicken livers.
     Season with sea salt and black pepper.
     Sauté the livers till brown highlights appear and the livers are halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Use a carving fork and a knife to slice the chicken livers into bite size pieces, while they are still cooking in the pan, so no flavor is wasted!
     Step 4:  Add 3 cloves of sliced garlic.
     Add 3/4 cup of julienne sliced onion.
     Add 3 pinches of oregano.
     Sauté till some light golden brown highlights appear on the onions and garlic.
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 cups of rich chicken broth.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 6:  Mix 1 about tablespoon of flour with 1/4 cup of water in a small container.  
     Add just enough of the flour slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a thin consistency.  (Only a small amount is needed.  Any extra slurry can be saved for another recipe.)
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced curly leaf parsley.
     Add 1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Step 8:  By now the pasta should be cooked al dente!
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Allow the pasta to to stand for 45 seconds, so the heat and steam causes the surface of the pasta to become starchy white.  
     *Allowing a pasta to starch is not an Italian cooking technique that you see everyday!  Spaghetti Caruso recipe is one of the only Italian pasta recipes that requires the pasta to be starched.  Starching allows pasta to absorb more flavor from a broth sauce. 
     Step 9:  Add the spaghetti to the chicken livers and sauce in the pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 10:  Use a straight tine carving fork to twist the pasta while placing it on a plate.  Try to expose some of the chicken liver pieces on the surface.
     Sprinkle a little bit of chopped fresh curly leaf parsley over the pasta.
     Garnish with a curly leaf parsley sprig.
     Serve with fine grated Parmigiana Cheese on the side.
     Make only enough sauce to coat the pasta with flavor is the golden rule!  Sauce is not meant to be a soup that is eaten with a spoon.  A good pasta sauce has plenty of flavor to go around!

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