The Offal Truth

liver2

A couple of weeks ago, I was meandering through the aisles at the grocery store, when I passed by some packaged items in the the poultry section that caught my eye; chicken livers. Their brilliant hue of burgundy flesh was hard not to notice. As I investigated further, I was surprised at how reasonable the price was; less than $3 per pound. I had to know more. I went home and started looking online at how to prepare chicken livers, their nutritional value, and why they are not more popular. More…

A couple of weeks ago, I was meandering through the aisles at the grocery store, when I passed by some packaged items in the the poultry section that caught my eye; chicken livers. Their brilliant hue of burgundy flesh was hard not to notice. As I investigated further, I was surprised at how reasonable the price was; less than $3 per pound. I had to know more. I went home and started looking online at how to prepare chicken livers, their nutritional value, and why they are not more popular.

There are a few downsides to liver that I will get out of the way upfront. One: chicken liver is high in cholesterol so I would not recommend eating it daily, but as part of a well-rounded diet, they are near perfect. It is hard to find such a nutrient-packed offering of protein–7 grams per ounce–with so little fat and 75% of the vitamin A, almost 20% of the iron, and 0% carbohydrates; all wrapped up in only 47 calories. And this is in addition to providing 33% of the riboflavin, 15% of the niacin, 40% of the folate, 79% of the vitamin B12, and 33% of the selenium needed daily. And the cost for that same ounce is less than twenty cents. Talk about turning a frown upside down 🙂

The second issue has more to do with the prepping of the livers. Prepping chicken livers–or any livers for that matter–is not for the faint of heart. Removing the sinew and other offending bits can be a bit daunting for squeamish individuals (such as myself). I am not going to sugar coat it, it’s gross. And I don’t see it getting easier with practice. But the good news is that it doesn’t take much time at all. Before you know it, you will be done touching parts unknown and ready to start cooking.

The last issue with liver is–for many–it is an acquired taste, and texture. While I really would like to introduce this food into my mealplan every so often, I realize that not everyone is going to get on board the liver train. It was a challenge, but I realized that I needed to introduce liver in a more subtle way that removed some of the taste and textural issues from the equation. After coming up with several bad ideas, I eventually came upon one that I thought might work. It took advantage of the liver’s richness while removing its pastiness. It also mellowed its overall earthiness just enough to be pleasing to a teenager without dumbing down the essence of what makes liver appealing in the first place. The dish I came up with was a medley of warm bacon, fennel, and Brussels sprouts over tagliatelle pasta with chicken liver alfredo sauce.

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Each component played a part in the tasty outcome of this dish. The sweet, yet crunchy fennel paired well with the bitter shaved sprouts. The bits of bacon added a smokiness that seemed to bring out the best in the liver. When the meal was ready, I had a 17-year-old and a 19-year old try the dish without mentioning what type of sauce was so lovingly coating the noodles they were wolfing down–and they both loved it. Based on that alone, I consider this meal a rousing success!

Pasta with Chicken Liver Alfredo Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • Enough milk to cover chicken livers
  • 227 grams (8oz) of chicken livers
  • Oil to coat fry pan, and as needed
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp thyme, minced
  • 1 Tbsp tarragon, minced
  • 2 Tbsp cream sherry
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 250 grams (8.8oz) of dried tagliatelle pasta
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp sea salt (for pasta water)
  • 114 grams (4oz) of double-smoked bacon, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
  • 227 grams (8oz) of Brussels sprouts, peeled and almost shaved
  • 1 1/2 tsp of tarragon, minced
  • 57 grams (2oz) of panko

MISE EN PLACE

  1. Soak livers in milk for approximately 30 minutes.
  2. While livers are soaking, mince onion, garlic, thyme, and tarragon. Measure out sherry and butter.
  3. Fill stock pot with 4 to 5 quarts of water.
  4. Make sure oil, salt and pepper are within reach.
  5. Cut up bacon.
  6. Cut fennel bulb in half, rotate onto flat side, cut again so that you end up with four pieces of a pie, and slice thinly.
  7. Peel sprouts, cut in half, and slice (almost shaving) or use a mandolin.
  8. Mince additional tarragon and mix with panko and a pinch of salt and pepper.

STEP ONE
Drain liquid and pat the liver dry. Clean by removing stringiness, sinew, off colored bits, etc. Once done, cut pieces into similar sizes.

STEP TWO
Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. Add oil to coat pan. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for approximately 5 minutes until soft, translucent, and starting to turn golden. Add liver and cook until starting to brown.

STEP THREE
Turn on stockpot burner to start heating the pasta water. When water is at a rolling boil, add salt, and pasta. Stir occasionally. Cook to package specs.

STEP FOUR
Add garlic to large fry pan with onions and livers and cook until fragrant. Add herbs and cook for a minute or so. Add sherry and cook until almost evaporated. Transfer to food processor and blitz until smooth. Set aside.

STEP FIVE
Using the same large fry pan, cook bacon bits over medium to medium-high until brown and crisped. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon  and set aside. Add fennel and cook until soft. Add Brussels sprouts. Cook until soft. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set veg aside.

STEP SIX
When pasta is within a minute or so of being done, scrape contents of food processor into large fry pan. Warm if necessary. Using  thongs or teethed spoon, add pasta from stock pot. Stir. Add pasta water as necessary to loosen sauce (approximately one ladle). Add 1/2 the cooked veg and 3/4 of the bacon to the fry pan as well. Stir to combine.

STEP SEVEN
Portion pasta dish in 4 large or 6 medium portions. Sprinkle with 1/4 more veg (leaving the rest for another recipe that I will be highlighting later in the week), panko/tarragon mixture, and remaining bacon bits. Serve, and enjoy!

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I would love to hear of any creative ways that you have made chicken livers, other livers, or offal, in general. I still have a half of a pound of livers to use…

UPDATE: To find out what I did with the other half pound of livers, click here!

5 thoughts on “The Offal Truth

    • They definitely are an acquired taste, but in this recipe they really just added a richness. The prepping was really the hardest part! I do not look forward to prepping the rest for another experiment/recipe =)

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      • I love to cook, but I can be lazy about it. (-: Keep up the amazing blogging and if you get bored check out my blog. I write short stories and character interviews readers can interact with.

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