The Two-Livered Chicken

I often get feeling like I should be eating more offal. I’ve gotten okay with pig ears and cracklings, and will plow my way through a plate of sweetbreads. But I’m still a bit skittish when it comes to brains, stomachs, kidneys and so forth.

Crostini with beet pickles

Crostini with beet pickles

I love the idea of eating the whole animal. And when I purchase a duck, for example, I’ll be mindful to get five or six separate dishes out of the bird — breasts, leg confit, liver pate, bone stock and demi glaze, skin cracklings, and rendered fat.

When you buy a chicken, a variety of knobby organish pink things come tumbling out from the inside. The only one I ever do anything with is the liver, and only if I’m feeling ambitious.

I purchased a particularly beautiful free range organic chicken the other day, and out of the cavity came tumbling TWO livers!

Being Irish and having joked ad nauseum with my pals about growing an extra liver, I’m pretty familiar with that particular part of the animal anatomy. And was pretty certain that unlike the kidney, say, each of us in the animal kingdom was given but one liver. Somehow, defying both logic and natural order, I’d gotten a two-livered chicken!

It was the perfect opportunity to make Tuscan crostini.

Chances are it was chance — that whomever was cleaning and packing the chickens accidentally stuffed two livers into the cavity of this particular bird. (Some poor sucker somewhere got a liverless chicken.) Whatever the case, I was going to take advantage of this small jackpot.

Sometimes I’ll make crostini with a single chicken liver, which is hardly worth the effort — a few measly bites. Mario Batali, in his crostini recipe, begins with a pound of liver. That’s more crostini than I’ve got a stomach (or liver) for. But two livers would be perfect!

I sautéed some shallots in some leftover bacon fat I had, added the liver and capers and a couple anchovies, let a caramel develop and then poured in some red wine and reduced. Mario Batali, whose recipe inspired mine, serves his with a fennel pickle. In place of this, I made a beet and onion pickle with a wonderful combination of Japanese rice wine vinegar and the highly underrated Chinese red vinegar. The result offset the richness of the liver perfectly — and provided a nice color foil to the liver’s gray-brown lumpiness, as you can clearly see in the photo above.

At a Tuesday night dinner party, I slathered three thick slices of my homemade bread with the liver paste, broiled them to a golden brown, and topped them with vibrant red pickle. The two livered chicken would be proud…

*    *    *

Tuscan crostini with beet pickles
serves 4 as an appetizer

2 large chicken liver
1 tbsp. bacon drippings (or olive oil)
1 tbsp. chopped shallot
1 tbsp. capers
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup red wine
freshly ground pepper & salt to taste
4 thick slices ciabatta or other crusty country bread
4 or 5 thin slices raw beet
1 tbsp. shaved sweet onion
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Chinese red vinegar

Make the beet pickles: Stack your beet slices, and cut into thin matchstick batons. Toss with the onion, place in a bowl, and cover with the vinegars. Let sit for 1 to 2 hours.

Heat bacon fat (or olive oil) in a small pan over medium heat. Add shallot and capers, and stir cooking until golden, about 2 minutes. Push shallot and capers to the side and add the chicken liver. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Add red wine and anchovy, and cook until all but about 2 tbsps. of the wine has cooked away, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Place chicken liver mixture in a small food processor and add one more tablespoon olive oil, and blend very briefly to create a rough puree. (You can also do this procedure in a small bowl, mashing with two forks until pureed, if you do not have a small processor.)

Spread on top of four toasts. Place in a toaster oven (or oven) and toast for about 5 minutes, until bread is crusty and golden and liver mixture is browned. Top with beet pickles and serve.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Glennis
    Aug 08, 2014 @ 02:37:14

    I love chicken liver! mmmm!!!


  2. Jessamine in PDX
    Aug 08, 2014 @ 04:46:23

    Yum! Looks awesome! Livers, sweetbreads and hearts are certainly my offal of choice. I am SO with you on the brains (just the idea makes me shudder a bit). I’ve eaten kidneys but certainly would never go out of my way to do so again, and I’ve actually eat pork stomach whenever I’m at my favorite little Japanese restaurant here. Somehow the chef makes it taste so good.


    • scolgin
      Aug 09, 2014 @ 14:41:13

      Japanese chefs are pretty good at making weird things taste good (and good things taste weird, for that matter). Speaking of pork stomach, I’ve had mixed feelings about menudo. Sometimes I think it’s delicious, and other times it makes me gag.


      • Jessamine in PDX
        Aug 09, 2014 @ 20:25:31

        I have never had menudo — something about the idea just turns me off. However, I do love some tripe. Braised in a spicy tomato sauce with a bit a fresh mint is the way to go. I could eat that all day long! A few places here do it really good. But if it gets in the wrong hands – ugh! Nightmares.

      • scolgin
        Aug 09, 2014 @ 21:12:54

        It’s kinda like uni — needs to be handled masterfully. (Or not handled at all.) I like the rubbery texture!

  3. buclunker0
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 16:33:37

    Look online for a recipe for czarnina which is a Polish soup made of prunes, vegetables, duck and duck’s blood! I bet you’d like it!


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