Fried chicken livers with pickled onions and pepper jelly

Liver let fry

Originally appeared in the November 21, 2012 edition of the Southside Times.

You know the old adage about imitation as a form—nay, the sincerest form—of flattery, right?

That sentiment is not unlike that venerable literary chestnut, as suggested by Saul Bellow, that a writer is a reader moved to emulation.  Back in the summer of 2007 I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans; and when the most opportune occasion presented itself, I surreptitiously broke away from my traveling companions in favor of a solitary stroll through the city.

I happened on a treasure called Cochon (French for hog or pig).  After being seating and settling on a mint julep, I couldn’t help but start with a plate of the fried livers with pepper jelly and toast.  Several bites into the experience, my impression was that the dish was an ingenious riff on the time-honored liver and onions.  So—as my linguistics professor used to say—no tricks here, folks; this is a humble interpretation of an established classic from Cochon.

Like most variety meats, chicken livers are absurdly affordable, making the magical transition from offal to awfully refined all the more impressive.

And if you’re averse to variety meats, I urge you to try this particular variation.  Who knows, you just might be moved to emulation.  Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader—see you next week.

Fried chicken livers with pickled onions and pepper jelly

Serves 6

  • 10 ounces chicken livers, drained
  • As needed, whole milk (to soak livers)
  • 1 ½ cups Drake’s fry mix
  • ½ cup coarse cornmeal
  • As needed, kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons jalapeno jelly (plus water to thin)
  • As needed, sliced and toasted sourdough baguette

Pickled onions

  • 1 white onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
  • 5 fluid ounces olive oil
  • 2 fluid ounces white balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch of kosher salt, cracked black pepper
  • Generous pinch of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley (plus more for garnish)

1.  In a heavy-bottomed, high-sided stockpot (or home deep-fryer, if you have one), heat canola or peanut oil to 350°F.

2.  After draining livers, place in a bowl and cover with whole milk; place in refrigerator and soak livers for 1 to 2 hours (this will draw out impurities, sweeten the livers, and help create a batter before frying).  Meanwhile, pour balsamic vinegar in a medium-size bowl, and slowly whisk in olive oil to form an emulsion.  Add salt, pepper, and sugar, and heat mixture slightly (either over a double-boiler or in microwave).  Whisk again to maintain emulsion and pour over sliced onion; fold in parsley and set aside.

3.  Place pepper jelly in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Thin out slightly with a small amount of water (adjust consistency to your preference).  Set aside.

4.  Combine Drake’s with cornmeal in a shallow dish.  In batches, remove livers from milk and dredge in flour cornmeal mixture.  Deep fry livers until golden brown; drain on rack and season with additional kosher salt and pepper.  Serve fried livers on top of baguette toasts along with pickled onion, pepper jelly, and garnish with Italian parsley.

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