Liverbest; Nancy Silverton and Chi Spacca's Ryan DeNicola Take A Humble Food To New Heights

For decades, maybe even for a century,. liverwurst has been the laughing stock of the gourmet world, a mashed-up concoction that even it's punch line cousin - Chopped liver -  seemed to distance itself from. 

But, this week that all changed when one of the humblest of foods found itself on the menu of Nancy Silverton's chi Spacca accompanied by, get this,  yet another hackneyed food item that will soon be heading for bright lights; the potato pancake.

This reporter - recently embedded with an elite Mozza unit on the heralded Corner of Highland and Melrose - got a rare inside glimpse at the making of a dish. This is the often harrowing tale of how the potato pancake and a disc of liverwurst ended up together on the menu of one of America's greatest restaurants.

It's three hours before service at chi Spacca, the smallest and most muscular of the Mozza restaurants on the Corner.  Chef Ryan DeNicola is looking down at three golden brown potato pancakes with line cook Tyler Vidal.   They taste all three and deem them fine.

But, now, Ryan explains to Tyler the single most important lesson to be learned on the Corner; Nancy Silverton will not be satisfied with this effort. She will send them back to the ateiier. Nancy is never satisfied with a first effort. Or a sixth. There is improvement to be found with more work.. Even when it is outstanding, it has to get better.

And sure enough, Ryan and Tyler take the three, five-inch diameter pancakes over to Osteria Mozza where Silverton is getting ready for a night behind the Mozzarella Bar. She tastes them. They're all good. But, with Nancy,. good don't cut it. 

Now, back to the liverwurst.  

When asked if she helped Ryan with the liverwurst, Nancy Silverton replied, "Oh, pleeease. What do you think?"

The spark for transforming liverwurst into liverbest occurred in Philly at MIchael Solomanov's Rooster Soup Co.. Nancy and James Beard award-winning pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez ordered the fried Lebanon baloney sandwich. Nancy asked how they managed to get baloney from Lebanon.  "Lebanon. Pennsylvania" she was told. Makes sense, There's no baloney in real Lebanon.

It was like a fried baloney sandwich, but thicker. and it gives  Nancy the spark that liverwurst might be worth revisiting. Shape it into a thick medallion and fry it. Worth a shot. After all, this is the woman who took the humble grilled cheese sandwich halfway to heaven.

Back on the corner, Ryan got on it with enthusiasm.  He got his version of liverwurst to a point where anyone familiar with that stuff in a tube would not recognize it.  It's pork liver, pork fat, pork meat. salt, onion. black pepper, cardamon, ginger,, oregano and mace.  (It should be noted that this "mace" is one the so-called "winter spices", not  the mace used by the LAPD.). 

Then this hockey puck is fried. 

Two days later after the first - failed - potato pancake tryout, , Nancy is beaming. She has figured it out with the help of consultant Jess "Don't Call Me Jesse" - Eleven, the only employee on the Corner to admit to have made a potato pancake.  In addition to using a classic chrome box grater ( think cheese) a mandolin was brought in to obtain large potato pieces for creaminess. Onions, white and green, brought color and more flavor. Then, the traditional Jewish favorite got what it needed. bacon. Ecco! 

The result?  Behold chi Spacca's "Fried DeNicola" liverbest  over "Nancy's 2 Grater"  Potato Pancake with bacon. "It's gonna be at all the Jewish delis," says Nancy. .   

No one's laughing at liverwurst anymore.. 

pp lb