About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Chicken Liver with Sage
If we are the sum of our past experiences, then that might account for my continuing ambivalence towards liver. Most offal is tasty when well prepared, even those parts of an animal that one may not consider to be especially good and most of us consume offal on a regular basis, even if unknowingly through processed foods, meat pie anyone?

There is offal that I'm not particularly keen on, spleen for one, hearts and lungs another, though haggis which uses up the aforementioned hearts and lungs is something that gives me no qualms, it's all about how the offal is prepared. Most of us love at least one form of offal and that is pork crackling; other bits and pieces I like include tripe, black pudding, pigs trotters, tongue, brains and sweetbreads. Other parts that are less savoury unless well prepared are kidneys, giblets, hearts, testicles and spleen.

And liver.

My childhood was mostly a happy one with the exception of the two times my brother, sisters and I were forced to eat lambs fry after which the protestations were so sustained and severe that mum gave up on it. Lambs fry for those that don't know was a dish of lamb's liver, onions and bacon cooked together and in the hands of a sensitive cook was possibly a dish of great virtue, but in my mum's hands a thing of perdition. Through hard won experience I can authoritatively say that overcooked liver is completely inedible with a texture that rivals shoe leather.

To say these early encounters with this variety meat scarred me is something of an understatement, the childhood scene of us all at the dinner table whining and pleading is still vivid with me to this day, as are the ways we managed to avoid eating it with frequent trips to the loo to spit it out, and this has also subsequently informed my feelings towards this usually well regarded item. It was not the flavour that troubled me, as pate is something I've always enjoyed, it was the texture and those childhood memories that kept putting me off.

On the other hand, my wide D enjoys liver and in an effort to be a kind and loving husband, I have made efforts to come to terms with my childhood nemesis and there are some things I've learned along the way, with perhaps the most important being, that to me anyway, liver is best when sliced thin, no more than a few millimetres thick and very quickly cooked on a high heat until it's a uniform pink colour, similar to a medium done steak. Unfortunately for me in this regard, D has no truck with either meat or offal cooked to this degree of doneness, preferring, like my mum, to err on the side of well done, which is a place I'm not willing to go. So D has discovered that if she wishes to eat liver, she has to have it on the pink side or it simply won't be eaten by me, so both of us have had to make compromises.

The other day, D bought a tray of chicken livers for frying, which I noticed sitting in the fridge. I remembered a dish that Stefano de Pieri cooked in his series, A Gondola on the Murray, of chicken livers with sage served on pappardelle. I didn't have his recipe to hand, but the thought of a creamy sauce suddenly made the livers very enticing.

Chicken Livers with Sage
(serves 4)

500g chicken livers
salt and fresh ground pepper
50g butter
20 leaves sage
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
500mls beef stock
2 tablespoons sour cream or cream fraiche

Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the chicken livers in it. heat 25g butter until hot and quickly fry half the livers, don't overcrowd the pan. Turn when browned on one side and throw in half the sage leaves to fry. When the livers are done, remove to a warm place and fry the rest of the livers and sage leaves the same way. Add the rest of the butter to the pan, add the onions and gently fry until golden brown, don't skip this step and just fry until soft. Add the garlic, fry for two more minutes then add 2 tablespoons of leftover flour from the dredging and fry gently for another minute. Add the beef stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened. Add the sour cream and chicken livers and gently heat until the livers are warmed through, do not boil or the sour cream may split. Check the seasoning and serve on noodles or plain boiled potatoes.

Note: If you don't brown the onions properly the flavour will be less intense. You could use chicken stock instead of beef stock but again the flavour will be lighter, don't worry about the chicken livers, strong flavours suit them. Also it is a lot of sage, but when you fry it, the flavour isn't as strong as fresh. You could also use fresh cream, but the sour cream lends a pleasant tang to the dish.
  posted at 7:11 am

At 2:17 am, Blogger Blue Zebra said...

Hi Neil, your account de liver left my laughing so hard! What is it about "our generation"? My mom struggled so hard to make it. And we struggled so hard to keep it down and not yak at the table! ;)

To this day, I can't handle calves liver sauteed with onions...don't know why cuz I love pate! I also really enjoy chicken livers now and again as long as they are not too done!

Your recipe sounds lovely!! I've added it to my must try list!

At 2:51 am, Blogger Kalyn said...

I just adore chicken livers. Back in the *good old days* (when I was in college) KFC used to sell deep fried chicken livers in the U.S. You ate them dipped in that KFC gravy, just yummy. Haven't sold them there for years, but I'd love to have some chicken livers again!

Your recipe sounds great, and much healthier than the KFC version!

At 3:21 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Liver is one of those foods you love or hate maybe. Growing up I always wanted the chicken livers that mom fried with the Sunday fried chicken! One of the best parts, so much crunchy! We didn't have liver often but mom's was good to eat. When my boys were little, they'd beg me to make liver for them. Haven't made that in years, it was super good.
Terrific childhood story there.
Your recipe looks very tasty especially with the sage!

At 8:07 am, Blogger Anh said...

Confesssion: I adore chicken liver and won't mind eating them more often! I like your ides of combining it with sage - must be wonderful!

At 10:44 pm, Blogger kazari_lu said...

Oh yum!

I'm having a sage week - we did gnocchi with sage butter on Sunday. I'm going to be missing these winter flavours soon.

At 9:06 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi blue zebra, I think that at our mother's time there was a feeling that well done meat was safer to eat, so I guess they felt they were doing the right thing, just a pity about poor us and poor liver!

Hi kalyn, OMG, KFC chicken livers!!! I reckon I would really go for that, for sure D would. Maybe it's a good thing they don't sell them anymore!

Hi tanna, more fried liver, who would have thought? Funny how some foods fall out of favour.

Hi anh, it works really well with sage, I'm sure you would like it.

Hi kazari-lu, yeah, but think of all the spring things you are going to have, asparagus, artichokes...

At 12:09 am, Blogger Jeanne said...

I don't have any specifically traumatic childhood memories of liver-eating - I just remember not liking it (although I would eat my own body weight in my mom's chicken liver pate, or liver spread!!). My dad always loved it and would eat it in restaurants so as not to inflict it on the rest of the family. The turning point for me was having creamy liver and bacon on a baked potato one night in a pub - it was a revelation and for the past 12 years or so I have been happily eating liver. Kidneys are also good if not overcooked; sweetbreads are tasty if I don't think about them too hard and tongue is heaven on earth. Don't think I would do lungs though (a textural thing) and the jury's still out on heart. Spleen just sounds too much like congealed blood, but I'm sure in skilled hands it woudl be fine. I've had crispy sheep's tails right off the BBQ which were AWESOME and haven't had testicles, although my other half has. He pronounced them, to taste... nutty.

The recipe reminds me of my creamy pacon, liver and sherry pasta recipe that I posted last month - mmmm!


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