A few weeks ago my brother-in-law (my sister's husband), Jacques, wrote the following on his Facebook status:
"Who the heck deep fries liver? No, but seriously, who does that? Really now. Apalled."
My sister said "Not me"
And I wrote "I would! Deep fried chicken livers? Sounds tempting."
And Jacques said "Figures, what else could be expected from a barefoot kitchen witch."
And with those words, the gauntlet was thrown down.
I said I'd HAVE to make them now.
But then...every time I went to the store and looked for chicken livers, THERE WEREN'T ANY.
Now, I can see it happening once. MAYBE twice. But every time?
Somehow Jacques, grossed out at the prospect of me going out and actually frying up liver, had done SOMETHING to prevent all the chicken livers from making it to the stores.
I begged, I pleaded, and I promised he didn't have to eat them...and somehow, finally, the livers were back.
I bought two containers of them yesterday - one to use and one to freeze. Just in case.
And then, just to see what other people out there were doing, I googled deep fried chicken livers.
Many of the recipes called for soaking the livers in milk overnight to get rid of the strong liver taste. I had no interest in doing that. Number one, I didn't want to wait that long. Number two, I LIKE the taste of chicken livers, so why would I want to tone that down? If I didn't want to taste the liver, I could fry up zucchini instead.
I noticed, also, that fried chicken livers are a Southern comfort food. I'm a Northern chick, but I think I'd be perfectly content in a part of the country where people feel this way about liver. The preferred method down South seems to be cooking the livers as you would chicken fried steak, and serving them with a white or milk gravy.
That sounded just fine to me. I had my own idea of how I wanted to prep the livers, so back to the kitchen I went to begin the fun.
First, I got my approximately 1-lb. container of livers out of the fridge and emptied it into a collander.
Now, I buy chicken livers fairly regularly. But I'd never really noticed what it said on the lid of the container before.
Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Yes, Jacques - it's not just the people Andrew Zimmern was visiting - LOTS of people fry chicken livers. And clearly these particular livers are going to be exactly right for my purposes. Yay!
First, I set a pot of oil on the stove and started heating it up. Some recipes will call for shortening...or lard, or even bacon fat. I had the oil, so that's what I used. But bacon fat...that would be really good, I'm thinking.
Anyway, next, I got my battering stuff ready. In one bowl: flour, salt, pepper. In the next bowl - egg and milk. In the third bowl: flour and panko - the japanese bread crumbs. I wanted that crispyness.
Next, I rinsed the livers off with cold water, patted them dry with some paper towels, trimmed any fat off them (and there was very little, by the way), and then cut them up. I got about 4 portions from each liver. Like so.
Aren't they lovely? Like shiny little jewels glistening on the flour-dusted cutting board....
While the oil heated up, I dredged and dipped and breaded the livers.
They filled a plate.
Once the oil was about 360 degrees F, I started frying.
I put about 8 of them in the oil at a time. Not too many - didn't want to crowd them or make the oil temperature drop too much.
The other thing I did was cover the pot with a splatter guard - a screen kind of thing to protect me and the rest of the kitchen from all the flying oil. As they cook, the water in the livers turns to steam and causes the oil to splatter. There was a lot of splattering going on.
I cooked the livers til they were a lovely dark golden brown, then scooped them out and put them on some paper towels on a plate and sprinkled a bit of kosher salt on them.
Crispy and pretty.
I also decided to make a gravy. I was also, while the whole liver thing was going on, roasting a chicken, so I'd want gravy anyway. But after reading all the Southern-themed recipes, I was thinking of doing a milk gravy.
So first I made a roux....
I added dried thyme to it. And then some white wine. And then some of my homemade dark chicken stock. And then some milk. Whisking all the while. I threw in a chicken bouillon cube because the gravy seemed bland. (I also had a sore throat and what felt like the beginnings of a cold, which tends to mess up my sense of taste, so I might not really have needed the cube). I added a bit more wine and a bit more milk, because then the gravy tasted too bouillon cube-y. And a bit more thyme. And a bit more salt. And some black pepper. And I let it cook. And know what? It was awesome.
(Yes, I'm a slob. I dripped some gravy on the placemat.)
I LOVED these. I will make these again. And again. Only not too often, because they'd clog my arteries pretty quickly. But comfort food? Oh yes. Definitely.
When Bill got home from work, I had him shut his eyes and open his mouth, and I dipped one in some gravy and popped it in his mouth. It took him a bit of time to figure out what he was eating, but then his eyes widened and he ate nearly all of the rest of them. (I'd sampled a fair amount before he got home. You know, in the interest of culinary...um...something.)
Anything I'd change next time? Yes. I wouldn't cook them quite so long - some ended up a bit dry. And I think I'll try them without the panko, just to see what that's like.
We just ate them as-is, but they'd be great alongside some mashed potatoes, maybe, or sweet potatoes...and some sort of greens. And a biscuit.
So anyway, Jacques, these were fabulous! Thanks for putting the idea in my head!