Part 2: In which beautiful chicken livers are obtained and prepared as a small supper
Our dear readers, you may recall last fall's post, in which I told of my unsuccessful attempt to secure fresh chicken livers due to the staff of a certain meat store's inability to grasp my expressed needs. This dish, as you will soon see, is not something one eats every day, like salad. So although I've fried up a couple batches since last fall and have not felt like taking photos due to various reasons, at last I have found the organic chicken livers at Whole Foods to be plentiful. Unlike at the coop, where to get organic livers one has to be ready to go the store on Tuesdays, call ahead, to make sure they hold some for you, etc…and unlike my other nearby favorite shop where they were $9.00 per pound and I had to order them and wait an indefinite amount of time ( I mean… really!) ...the organic livers at Whole Foods seem to be in store every day, never frozen and just, well, easy at $3.99 per pound.
So the reason I've wanted to write about chicken livers, as you may recall, is that a lot of people hate them. I don't think that should be so. My claim is that the way they are commonly prepared makes them into hard, bitter bits of yucky. I'm stamping my foot and saying this just isn't right!!
My preparation does require that the livers be fresh and never frozen. I emphasize this because I have never had frozen livers that don't get mealy and end up on the dry side, which is not what I'm looking for. Fresh livers will be a very tender and moist texture after cooking, almost creamy in consistency.
Getting them fresh means that once you get them from the store you should be ready to cook them within a day. They don't last long. My preparation also implies that this is an infrequent treat. This is not the sort of thing that you're going to want to eat often, or in large quantities. So they are nice for a family treat when everyone is not very hungry or when they can be served as a small starter or canapé for a party.
With those things understood, here you go:
At least a 9 or 10 inch frying pan or larger
1 small onion
4 strips of bacon
1 pound fresh chicken livers
1/2 cup of all purpose flour for dredging, seasoned with:
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Fry the bacon until there's enough bacon fat to help fry the onion. Slice the onion and add it in. The slices of onion in the photo are on the large size. They can be much much smaller and still be very good. I like to see them and taste them, but if you like them to dissolve into the general yumminess of the pan by chopping them until they are small pieces, that's good.
Continue to cook over medium heat until the bacon is fairly crisp and the onions are golden and tender. Remove the bacon and chop it so that it will spread through the dish and put it back in the pan (or start with it chopped).
Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the chicken livers to prepare them for cooking. Over medium heat, add the livers to the onion and bacon . Allow the first side to brown 8-10 minutes, turn and continue to cook another 8-10 minutes and partially cover the pan. Turn the livers again, then reduce the heat to medium-low for the last 8-10 minutes (covered) so they don’t overcook (24-30 minutes total).
Here is a breakdown of some details:
My dredging technique involves really thoroughly coating each liver, so it takes a little time to get the flour into the many nooks and crannies. If you don't skimp on this process you will be rewarded with an amazing bacon and onion flavor that clings to each liver in the coating. Over medium heat the coating will slurp up the bacon fat and the livers will cook gently, yet you will still get a slight crispiness and good browning of the flour.
These are a bit snug in the pan, but each liver is touching the bottom, which allows each to brown. Keeping them a little on the snug side helps them retain some moisture, which is good.
This is the first turn, with the browning beginning to happen. Turning three times helps keep them tender and cook evenly.
Putting a lid on with a bit of a gap (on the left side of the pan in this photo) keeps them from drowning in water and losing all the great flavor and color from browning. Put the lid on after you turn them the first time.
After they've been cooking for 15-20 minutes they will be seeping a little blood and the coating will be browning.
It's not an especially handsome meat, so you can take out a little piece to check for a color that has just barely turned from pink to gray after 20-25 minutes. I don't mind little dots of pink here and there, but not much.
If the cosmos deigns that you deserve good chicken liver, this should do it. Otherwise, I can't help you.
If you're adventurous you might want to try for a crispier coating by frying them at a higher temperature and leaving the lid off for longer. My experience is that if you don't get it right you will get a more bitter liver that may become hard and dry in places. I consider these undesirable qualities.
A garnish is a good idea if you would like something pretty. Two livers with a small salad and a potato is a lovely little supper. That's what I did after taking all these photos.
The leftovers make a decent chopped liver if you like it. I haven't had bad luck warming them very very gently the next day, but after that forget it. Make chopped liver and enjoy it at that point.