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Chicken livers: the everyday foie gras

You don't need foie gras to make poultry livers delicious, just preparation, complementary ingredients and a little patience

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

Unless they come from fattened geese or ducks (in which case they're known as foie gras) poultry livers don't get much respect. I'm not sure why, though, because if prepared correctly, regular livers can be delicious. The trick is in cooking them a point - if undercooked, they're bloody, mushy and disgusting; if overcooked, they're hard and heavy. They should be slightly pink at the centre.

 

Buttermilk and cornmeal fried chicken livers with bitter greens, pancetta, duck egg and sriracha mayonnaise (pictured)

 

This dish came about in a very "organic" way. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do for the photoshoot - a hearty winter salad of fried chicken livers (I would have used duck livers - regular ones, not foie gras - if they were easier to find) and bitter salad greens that I wanted to wilt using a hot dressing made of bacon fat and fresh lemon juice. But wilted greens don't look pretty in a photograph, so we skipped using the hot dressing. Then we started adding other ingredients to make the salad more colourful and substantial. But the whole thing came together only when the stylist and I were munching on the leftover fried chicken livers as the photographer was taking pictures of what we thought was the finished dish. I mixed some mayonnaise with sriracha (Thai-style chilli sauce) and used it as a dipping sauce for the livers - and we liked it so much that we stopped the photographer and added sriracha mayonnaise for the final shot.

 

2 duck eggs
2-4 small potatoes, depending on size
50 grams pancetta, cubed
250 grams chicken livers
About 100 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp paprika
About 100ml buttermilk
About 120 grams medium-grain cornmeal, for dredging
Oil, for frying
2 large handfuls bitter salad greens (such as frisee, radicchio or dandelion greens)
6-8 cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of colours, halved
10-15ml fresh lemon juice
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt and rough-flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 100 grams Hellmann's mayonnaise
About 25 grams sriracha sauce, or to taste

 

Put the duck eggs in a pan and add enough cool tap water to cover them by about 1cm. Place the pan over a medium flame and bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat, then cover it with the lid and let the eggs poach for six minutes. Put the eggs in a bowl of iced water and leave for a few minutes. Crack the shells all over but do not peel them. Put the eggs back in the iced water and leave them while preparing the other ingredients.

Put the potatoes in a pan of salted water, place over a medium flame and cook them until they're just tender enough to be pierced with a sharp knife. Drain the potatoes and when they're just cool enough to handle, slice them into rounds about 5mm thick.

Put the pancetta in an unoiled skillet and place it over a medium-low flame. Cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, then remove the pan from the heat.

Put the chicken livers on paper towels to blot up the excess moisture. Trim off any dark spots, and cut the livers between the lobes into large pieces.

Mix the flour with the cayenne pepper, paprika, some fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Put the buttermilk in a second bowl, and the cornmeal in a third. Pour oil to a depth of about 1.5cm in a skillet and heat it over a medium flame. When the oil is hot (180 degrees Celsius), dip the chicken livers into the seasoned flour, then into the buttermilk before dredging in the cornmeal and shaking off the excess. Fry the livers so they're a little pink at the centre then drain them on paper towels.

Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil, pour it over the bitter greens and mix to lightly coat the leaves. Pile the greens onto two plates and arrange the livers on top. Divide the potatoes and tomatoes between the portions and scatter the pancetta on top. Peel the duck eggs carefully, then cut them in half - the yolk should still be soft - and place the pieces on the plates. Mix the mayonnaise with the sriracha sauce to taste, then drizzle this over the livers, serving the remainder in a bowl for dipping. Sprinkle rough-flaked sea salt over the salad before serving.

 

Chicken liver crostini

 

Good quality country-style bread, cut into slices about 5mm thick
Olive oil
30ml cooking oil
30 grams unsalted butter
3 medium-sized shallots, minced
1-2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste with a fork
300 grams chicken livers, dark spots removed
80ml dry marsala, port or sherry
Fine sea salt and rough-flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of half a lemon

 

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Brush one side of each slice of bread lightly with olive oil. Lay the bread slices, oiled-side up, on a baking tray and bake them until lightly toasted.

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet, add the shallot and garlic and cook over a medium flame until soft. Add the anchovies and chicken livers, season lightly with salt and sauté for a few minutes. Stir in the marsala, port or sherry, then season with black pepper. Sauté for a few minutes more, or until the chicken livers are done. Stir in the lemon zest then transfer the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until they're roughly chopped - they should be cohesive and spreadable, but not a smooth purée. Adjust the seasonings as needed, then spread on the toasted bread and sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt before serving.

 

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