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Ronald Johnson’s chicken livers Madeira.

Seventeenth and eighteenth century English cooks used mashed chicken liver to thicken sauces; Johnson uses them to thicken sauce for… chicken livers themselves. This dish is inspired, at once rich and balanced. The slightly sweet but acidic fortified wine complements the silky livers and cream. For four.


-1½ lb chicken liver
-3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
-1 Tablespoon flour (Wondra will not lump)
-about ¼ cup Verdelho (preferred), Rainwater or other dry Madeira
-about 1 cup heavy cream
-salt and pepper
-about 2 teaspoons Worcestershire
-about 1 teaspoon lemon juice
-about ¼ cup minced parsley

  1. Separate each lobe of liver and trim each one of stringy tendon and bits of bile duct (it is bitter)
  2. Pat the livers dry or they will not sear, then melt the butter over medium high heat and sear the livers to give them a crust, then reduce the heat and fry them until nearly but not quite done to your liking; the Editor likes her chicken livers pink, not grey.
  3. Take about ¾ of the livers from the skillet, then stir the flour into the remaining ones until it loses its raw white color.
  4. Add the Madeira, then cream, reduce the heat to low and let the sauce thicken a little.
  5. Puree the sauce wit an immersion blender, or in a countertop blender or food processor. Season the sauce, then add the Worcestershire.
  6. Either reduce the sauce further or thin it with a little more cream to get a consistency that appeals to you, return the majority of livers to the pan and heat them through, then add the lemon juice. Do not let the sauce boil at this point or it may curdle.
  7. Strew the parsley and scallions over the liver and serve it on toast or with mashed potatoes.


- As Johnson says in his offbeat way, “a suave concoction.”

- Johnson does not add scallions at Step 7.

- Use more or less Worcestershire and lemon to taste; a pinch of cayenne at Step 3 will do no harm.

- If you like a thinner sauce, replace some of the cream with milk; stock is not recommended here.