Let’s talk chicken livers! I’ll go first.
Confession: I love the taste of chicken livers, but handling them… raw? It’s pretty much a nightmare.
But if I’ve learned anything during my years in the kitchen, it’s that you cannot make a delicious meal without a few gross-outs along the way.
And in addition to being tasty little buggers, chicken livers are packed with nutrition. So many of the nutrition gurus who inspire my recipes are advocating liver, I had to take it seriously — and that means that I’ve been developing more tasty recipes to transform livers from “Ew!” to “Yum!” (I’ve also included some tips for handling raw livers below.)
According to Chris Kresser, “[I]n some traditional cultures, only the organ meats were consumed. The lean muscle meats, which are what we mostly eat in the U.S. today, were discarded or perhaps given to the dogs.”
Why? Because liver is like a multi-vitamin in a protein costume.
Liver includes all of the following and more:
vitamin A (good eyesight!)
vitamin B-12 (fight anemia!)
folate (support fertility!)
riboflavin (grow healthy body tissues!)
iron (no anemia!)
pantothenic acid (fight stress!)
The two primary biggies of the vitamin world found in liver are Vitamin A — essential for organ function, vision, immune system, and the formation/reproduction of cells — and vitamin B-12, which is only available from animal-based foods and is required for proper brain function and for forming red blood cells and DNA.
But that doesn’t mean that more is necessarily better.
Although liver can certainly be classified as a superfood, the recommendation is that we eat about 4-6 ounces per week. We’re going for just the right amount of nutrients — the body is a careful balancing act — and too much liver can lead to too much Vitamin A. About 1/4 pound of livers, give or take a bite or two, per person, per week is a good place to be.
I’m the only one in my house that eats (enjoys! loves!) this recipe, so I make a batch of these Chopped Chicken Livers, divide it into thirds, and freeze it. Then I defrost a lump and eat about 2 ounces at a time, three times a week… usually for breakfast, along with 2-3 ounces of cold, grilled chicken to round out my dose of protein to start the day. Because it’s so rich and such a singular taste, I find I enjoy it a lot more if I eat it in small does over several days, instead of the whole 1/4-pound serving at once. But you do what you like.
And if you’re worried about things you’ve heard about the liver storing toxins, Mark Sisson’s got the science for you. In a nutshell, you shouldn’t sweat it: “If you avoid liver because of toxins, you should probably avoid the rest of the animal, too.”
If you want to make eating mashed livers sound more elegant, you can certainly call it “paté.” I have not for several reasons:
1. I based the recipe below on an old school, Jewish recipe for deli-style chopped livers, and I like that it sounds unfussy.
2. Paté is French, and the recipes usually include cream and butter.
3. In traditional paté, the livers are usually puréed raw, then cooked with other ingredients. Chopped livers are first cooked, then chopped with additional ingredients like fried onions and hard-boiled eggs. In both cases, there is usually a lot more fat than I’ve included in my recipe; there are instructions below in case you want to make it more traditional with additional fat.
4. I’m working on a smoother, paté-style recipe, too… so when you fall in love with chicken livers, too, you’ll have options to choose from.
Mel’s Chopped Chicken Livers
Serves 4 | Prep 5 minutes | Cook 15 minutes | Chill 1 hour
The hard-boiled eggs make this creamy and smooth — and help cut some of the richness of the liver. The caraway seeds add just a touch of flavoring, and the parsley and lemon juice brighten things up. If you’re not a caraway fan, you might try coriander seeds instead.
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon fat of choice: ghee, coconut oil, duck fat, lard
1 medium onion, minced
1 pound pastured chicken livers (Tendergrass Farms | US Wellness)
2 tablespoons cognac, optional (For Whole30, omit cognac; still tastes great.)
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place the caraway seeds in the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan and place in food processor bowl. To the same pan, add your fat of choice. When it’s melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Push the onions to the side of the pan and add the livers in a single layer, leaving a little wiggle room between them. You might need to do this in batches. Brown on the first side, undisturbed, for 2 or 3 minutes, then flip to brown the other side. You want them to remain a little pink in the middle.
3. When the livers are ready, add the cognac to the pan and scrape up any bits of yumminess stuck to the bottom. Allow the cognac to cook off for a minute or two, stirring the livers and onions together. When the pan is nearly dry, remove the pan from the heat and allow the livers to cool to the touch.
4. In the bowl of a food processor, place the livers and all the juices from the pan, hard-boiled eggs, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Now you have two choices: (a) Pulse until combined but still kind of chunky for a more traditional chopped chicken liver texture; (b) Purée until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary. (If you’re feeling hedonistic, you could add 1-2 tablespoons of additional fat at this step to make it richer and creamier.)
5. Spread into a BPA-free storage container with a spatula and place in the refrigerator, covered, until chilled, about 1 hour. Serve with raw veggies and fruit: apple, cucumber, jicama, carrots, grapes, romaine lettuce leaves. You might also want to try spreading it on these plantain crackers from The Paleo Mom (nut free!).
I’ve been treating my chicken livers like a utility food: it’s good for me, it’s delicious, and it’s a protein-powerful way to start the day. BUT… you can get fancy, if you want…
In a non-stick saucepan, sauté berries — strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or cherries — in a little cocout oil or ghee with a pinch of salt and powdered ginger. When it’s the consistency of thick, chunky syrup, remove from the heat and allow to cool. Spread chopped chicken livers on a baby romaine lettuce leaf or jicama slice, and top with some of the berry compote.
A Few Words About Handling Raw Chicken Livers
Working with raw chicken livers, especially the high-quality, pastured livers from somewhere like U.S. Wellness Meats or Tendergrass Farms, is a little bit like cleaning up after a murder in your kitchen. Here are a few tips to make it a little less gag-inducing:
1. You could wear gloves.
I keep a box of these disposable gloves in my kitchen drawer, and they come in handy for working with raw meat that gives me the heebies and rolling meatballs. They’re cheap, efficient, and you can pretend you’re starring on C.S.I. Win all around!
2. Blot, blot, blot.
The first step in managing livers is getting them as dry as possible as quickly as possible. I usually place a wire strainer in the sink and dump the container of livers into the strainer. Then I pile a few paper towels on a dinner plate and place the livers on the paper towels to drip dry, blotting the tops with more paper towels. At that point, they’re usually less slipper and less oogey. Be sure to clean the sink with hot water and soap if you dump the chicken livers in the sink to drain.
3. Divorce the eating from the prep.
One of the things that I really like about the chopped chicken livers, as opposed to the recipes below, is that there is the lovely separation of time between handling the livers and eating them. The time the chopped livers spend chilling in the fridge gives me an opportunity to forget about the preparation process. By the time I eat the chopped livers, they’re just food. (Instead of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre aftermath.)
More Liver Recipes
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