Po’ Boy with a Twist

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Recently, I decided to introduce liver into my meal repertoire. And the first dish I made was a surprising success. I had decided the best way to present it for all to enjoy was to…well…disguise it. I made a medley of warm bacon, fennel, and Brussels sprouts over tagliatelle pasta with chicken liver alfredo sauce. It worked; the disguise, that is. But no one was saying that they now loved liver–they didn’t even know liver was in the sauce until I told them. It was at this point that I realized that I needed to push it a bit farther. I still had half a pound of liver to play with, so I decided it was time to hit the kitchen and find my inspiration. More…

Recently, I decided to introduce liver into my meal repertoire. And the first dish I made was a surprising success. I had decided the best way to present it for all to enjoy was to…well…disguise it. I made a medley of warm bacon, fennel, and Brussels sprouts over tagliatelle pasta with chicken liver alfredo sauce. It worked; the disguise, that is. But no one was saying that they now loved liver–they didn’t even know liver was in the sauce until I told them. It was at this point that I realized that I needed to push it a bit farther. I still had half a pound of liver to play with, so I decided it was time to hit the kitchen and find my inspiration.

As luck would have it, we had a few things in the cupboard that were screaming to be made, and from my earlier research seemed a match made in heaven. I pulled out some rocket rolls and an onion. I then turned to the fridge and pulled out some mushrooms and spinach. At this point, my vision was clear: a Liver Po’ Boy. I set about making it happen.

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But before I spring the recipe on you, I have to tell you something in the spirit of full disclosure. This was the most painful meal I have ever made! No joke. Yes, the sauteed onions were perfectly caramelized, and the mushrooms plump and savory, with vibrant and perfectly-wilted spinach in addition to the main attraction having a delicate yet crispy crust with velvety interior. But the fact is, I burned the heck out of myself making the liver, and realized that I am not an expert on shallow pan frying. So be fair-warned, use a grease guard on this one! And maybe a glove. The grease spats like it’s pop rocks on the 4th of July–from beginning to end. So, if that didn’t put you off, here is the tasty, all-be-it dangerous, recipe in all its glory…

Liver Po’ Boy

INGREDIENTS

Filling

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 170 grams (6oz) of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • salt & pepper to taste

Liver

  • 227 grams (8oz) of liver
  • 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper

Extras

  • enough oil to shallow fry livers
  • 4 rocket rolls
  • salad greens, if desired

MISE EN PLACE

  1. Clean, remove stems, and slice mushrooms. Peel and slice onions. Grab two handfuls of pre-washed spinach. Make sure salt and pepper are within reach.
  2. Prep liver by removing sinew and odd bits, and chopping into similar-sized pieces, no more than an inch in size.
  3. Measure out the flour, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix together in medium-sized bowl.
  4. Get out a large fry pan to cook filling in, and deep fry pan to cook liver in, and slice rocket rolls. Remove excess bread so that there is enough room for mushrooms, onion, spinach, and liver.

STEP ONE
Place little liver pieces in bowl of flour dredge.

STEP TWO
Heat large fry pan over medium heat and add oil. Add mushrooms and onions. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until soft. Add spinach, turn down to low, and cook until wilted.

STEP THREE
Gently drop dredged liver pieces into oil and fry, turning over if needed. Cook until crisp on both sides; approximately 4 minutes total. To confirm that the liver is cooked, simply take one piece out and cut into.

STEP FOUR
Assemble the po’ boys by adding filling, the liver pieces, and them more filling into each rocket roll. Place over bed of greens. Serve and enjoy!

Makes 4 generous servings.

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The Offal Truth

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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!