Truth is that there is something very un-soothing and revolting about preparing offal, the entrails of a butchered animal. They are not the most attractive part of an animal and the chances are that in their raw state, they look (and might feel) squishy, pasty, spongy, rubbery, and slimy.
Cooked, offal do not fair so well on the mental palate, let alone a menu, for many people. The culinary world often gives offal cute, or code, euphemisms to describe them. A visitor to Oklahoma cattle country is more willing to order and share an appetizer of crispy, crunchy, and well-seasoned Rocky Mountain Oysters than they are likely to order peeled, sliced, julienne, seasoned, and battered bull testicles. The mental palate does not want to eat bull testicles because well… it sounds gross.
The entire world enjoys offal. In many cultures, since meat was scarce and/or expensive, they used all parts of the animals. While elite society sometimes threw away offal as trash only wanting to consume the tastier, neater muscles, the less fortunate found ways to turn them into culinary delicacies. Offal aficionados would argue that nothing is as satisfying or comforting as a slow-simmered pot of chitterlings (code name for: large pig intestines), a staple in southern Soul Food cooking dating back to slavery. Menudo, a heady spicy soup of diced tripe (code name for: cow’s or pig’s stomach lining), onions, peppers, cilantro, carrots, and cabbage is touted as a cure-all after a night of drinking and partying in many Latin American countries. The national dish of Scotland is a myriad of chopped offal seasoned with onions, oats, and herbs and stuffed into more offal. Haggis is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with minced animal hearts, livers, and lights (code name for: lungs) and boiled in stock for two to three hours. Brawn or headcheese are not actually offal, but often fall into this category because preparation involves using scraps from the animal’s head, which are then boiled, seasoned, and congealed in gelatin or aspic and served cold as a lunchmeat or snack. Souse is similar to brawn and headcheese but has vinegar added to the gelatin or aspic. Served hot, souse is loaded with pig’s trotters (code name for: pig’s feet), hog maw (code name for: pig’s stomach outer lining), and other dare-not-mentions in a spicy broth. Kidneys get equal billing in Steak and Kidney Pie in England and English pubs. Offal – stomachs, glands, tongues, nose, hearts, and other dare-not-mentions – are often ground up, seasoned, and stuffed into casings (code name for: animal small intestines) to make sausage.
Then there is liver (code names: pâté and liverwurst). Most people, I find, have a love-hate relationship with liver. And while a slice of sautéed calf’s liver is repulsive to them, a smooth purée of liver (chicken, beef, or pork) and onions flavored with sherry, brandy, and/or Dijon mustard and bound with cream, gelatin, and/or eggs is absolute heaven to them on a water cracker washed down with red wine. (Side bar: SFW’s childhood favorite was liverwurst served with cream cheese on crackers… but she hates liver – go figure.)
So yeah… heaven.
Last night, I thought I could bring a little heaven to the plate with sautéed Chicken Livers w Bacon, Onions, and Rosemary for some friends. Served along side creamy mashed potatoes, one finicky friend tried then with some delight and surprise; one friend tried them and preferred not to visit heaven that night… and another friend and I indulged in all that was heavenly.
Hours later, after my heavenly companion went home I got a text at how yummy dinner was… exclamation point. To which I thought I could not wait to warm the leftover chicken livers up tomorrow morning and serve on toast for breakfast.
My Recipe: CHICKEN LIVERS w BACON, ONIONS, and ROSEMARY
2 # fresh chicken livers, rinsed and drained well
2 small or 1 medium white onion, julienne
3 slices bacon
½ c all-purpose flour
½ c brandy
1 c water or chicken stock
1 t fresh rosemary
1 T kosher salt, separated
1 T fresh cracked black pepper, separated
Place bacon in a cold frying pan and cook over medium heat until crispy and all the fat is rendered into the pan turning once or twice; remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towels; keep the bacon fat
Season flour with 2t kosher salt and 2t fresh cracked black pepper
Lightly dredge chicken livers in seasoned flour and sauté in rendered bacon fat about 2 minute on each side over medium-high heat being careful not to crowd the pan or overcook the chicken livers; work in batches if you need to
Set chicken livers aside
In same pan, add julienne white onions and 1t fresh chopped rosemary; sauté until onions are soft, about 5 minutes
Add brandy to the pan, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan; cook for another 3 minutes until brandy is reduced by half
Add chicken livers back to the pan, on the top of the onions; add water; bring pan to a boil, reduce and simmer for 4 minutes, until chicken livers are cooked through but still light pink inside; the sauce will thicken slightly
Do not over cook the chicken livers or they will become rubbery and bitter
Season with remaining kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
Serve chicken livers garnished with chopped bacon and fresh rosemary sprigs
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!