Chicken Liver Lasagne
I first made Felicity Cloake’s perfect bolognaise recipe a couple of months ago and got the idea to up the chicken livers with the richness they gave the sauce. Chicken livers are dead cheap, and if my Mum’s taught me anything, it’s that a dinner tastes all the better when you’ve saved some pennies. Don’t shy away from liver because of greasy, rubbery memories of youth – they really benefit from long and low cooking, with the texture becoming meltingly soft and succulent. You could, of course, just use the sauce with some pasta, as it’s a great thing to make on a Sunday, leave to develop its rich flavours overnight, then have a quick but hearty meal after a long first day back at work on a Monday evening.
For the chicken liver sauce:
500g chicken livers, cleaned and finely chopped
100g of bacon, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
200ml dry vermouth
2 tins of tomatoes
For the béchamel:
750ml whole milk
50g plain flour
1 small onion, very finely chopped
12 lasagne sheets
1. Add the oil to a large casserole, and gently fry the bacon until the fat has rendered into the pan. Add the onion, and soften over a medium heat for around 5 minutes, before adding the carrot and celery and softening them for 10 minutes more. Add the bay leaves and stir until the scent hits you.
2. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Add the chopped livers to the pan, turning the heat up slightly, and frying until slightly browned. Add the milk to the pan, and simmer until the liquid has evaporated, around 20 minutes. Pour in the vermouth and both tins of tomatoes, season well, and finely grate around a quarter of a nutmeg into the pan. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover, then put into the oven. Cook for 3 hours, checking at hourly intervals to make sure there is enough liquid in the pan. If not, add a splash of water.
3. When the sauce has about 45 minutes left, melt the butter in a sauce pan, add the onion, and soften over a low heat for 15 minutes, being careful not to let them brown. Add the flour, cooking for 1-2 minutes, before slowly adding the milk, whisking as you go. Once you have added all of the milk, keep stirring until it comes to the boil, before turning the heat down and simmering for 10 minutes. Season, and grate another quarter of the nutmeg into the sauce. When the chicken liver sauce is ready, remove the pan and turn the oven up to 200°C.
4. Bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil, and grease a large baking dish with olive oil. Smooth a thin layer of béchamel across the bottom of the dish. When the water is boiling rapidly, add the lasagne sheets 4 at a time, blanching for 1 minute until pliable. Put them on top of the first layer of béchamel, followed a third of chicken liver sauce, then a quarter of the remaining béchamel. Repeat the whole process twice more, but finishing with half of the béchamel on top. Cover the top with grated parmesan, then cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the top is nicely golden.
5. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, and serve with salad.