|♬ I see you driving ’round town|
|with the girl I love and I’m like,|
|“Foie you!” ♬|
If you give a quack, California’s foie gras ban went into effect July 1, 2012.
Sections 25980-25984 of the California Health and Safety Code, enacted in 2004 and effective from July 1, 2012, prohibit the “force feed[ing of] a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird’s liver beyond normal size” as well as the sale of products that are a result of this process.
Foie gras is pretty darn tasty. The last time I had a piece of it, it was served on a very thin slice of chocolate cake. Weird, right?! So. Weird. Yet so deliciousiousioussss.
Foie gras translates to “fat liver” in French and the fattiness of it contributes a great deal to is deliciousness (see also: bacon).
|Foie gras properly refers only to the fatty livers of ducks (most often the Mulard duck) or geese (most often the grey goose). To have fatty duck or geese livers, one must have fatty ducks and geese. To have fatty ducks and geese, one must feed them until they are fat. Herein lies the rub.|
The birds that produce foie gras are fed via a technique called gavage. A funnel is put down their gullet and feed is deposited directly to their stomach/gizzard, do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Opponents of foie gras say the technique is cruel. Proponents of foie gras say the birds have no gag reflex so it does not bother them. The birds themselves had no comment.
Regardless of the issues surrounding foie gras, the current reality is that it is not (readily) available in the state of California. California foodies will have to cross state lines to purchase foie gras, either from a retailer or a restaurant. Producers of foie gras will not ship to California.
|Foie gras is delicious but I won’t protest to have it taken off, or put back on, the menu. Since I don’t have a duck, duck, or goose in this fight, here is a picture of life masquerading as a bowl of cherries.|
|I like liver from time to time (stop reading right now if you find offal awful), so I turned to an alternative: chicken livers.|
|♬ I guess the change in my pocket|
|wasn’t enough and I’m like,|
|“Foie you!” ♬|
Although chicken liver is a very high-cholesterol (158 milligrams per 1-ounce serving) food, it is also very nutritious. It is a good source of protein, iron, and various vitamins and minerals necessary for the playing of pool and among other activities.
|Chickens are not as bourgeois as ducks and geese, so chicken liver is highly affordable ($2.00 to $3.00 per pound for organic free-range stuff, $1.00 to $2.00 per pound for typical Foster Farms stuff) compared to foie gras ($70 per pound).|
Liver is often cooked with onions and/or served with a sauce that is slightly acidic to cut through its richness and balance its strong flavor. Today’s recipe is a Frankenstein idea of mine that uses balsamic vinegar for acidity with sweetness and green onions in place of the traditional yellow or brown onions.
|Oh, hai! Meet the two new pots gifted to me by a friend. I’ve named them Bert and Ernie. Bert (taller pot on the left) will be helping with today’s cooking.|
|You will need one small skillet for the sauce and another skillet or pot for frying the livers.|
|Soak 1 pound of chicken livers in whole milk overnight in the refrigerator.|
|Liver can have a weird taste that is often described as metallic. Soaking in milk greatly reduces or removes this flavor and it also improves the texture. How does it work? Dunno. Magic, I guess.|
|Drain the livers thoroughly in a colander or strainer.|
|Place the drained livers on some layers of paper towels in a baking pan.|
|I should have separated the livers and removed the excess fat (the yellow globs in the picture) before soaking the livers in milk. I did not do it because I was lazy. I should not be lazy. We will discuss this later.|
|Place some paper towels on top to dry off the livers some more. Set aside for the time being to allow them to come to room temperature.|
A friend of mine has a cookbook called the The Meat Club Cookbook: For Gals Who Love Their Meat! One of the best recipes is the Flat Iron Steak with Warm Onion Relish. Forget the steak. The relish is where it’s at. I’ve used the relish on steaks but where it really shines is on liver. Strange but true. The relish I make here is an adaptation of the one found in the book and will also work well on steak.
|Thinly slice 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, depending on the size of the cloves and my dislike of vampires.|
|2 bunches of green onions.|
|Thinly slice the white and pale green parts of the onion. I will also use the darker green parts as long as I gauge they are fresh and not too tough. I generally end up using the lower half of each onion.|
|I don’t throw away the upper ends, though. I save them in a glass with some water in the refrigerator. I slice up a few stalks (just the tender parts) to add to my ramen noodles or salads.|
Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and warm it up over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and green onions and saute over medium heat until they are soft and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Translucent and mellow.
|Add 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 4 tablespoons of red wine.|
|I did not have red wine so I substituted sherry.|
|Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. I used two packets of Sugar In The Raw.|
|If you use high-quality balsamic vinegar which tends to be sweeter, you might want to skip adding sugar. Otherwise, add sugar to taste. Some vinegars are more acidic and may require more sugar.|
Stir and simmer a minute over medium-low heat.
Finally, through the miracle of culinary science, we have Awesome Sauce in tangible form.
|Add salt and black pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary, and 1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme.|
|If you have fresh herbs, by all means, use them. The general ratio is 1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried.|
|Gently stir in the herbs and let the relish continue simmering to reduce the amount of liquid.|
Like the color of nice cocobolo. Or Coca-Cola.
When the liquid has reduced by about a third (5 to 7 minutes, but keep an eye on it), turn the heat down to very low, just enough to keep the relish warm. It is better to have more liquid than too little, so reduce conservatively.
|This, my dears, is duck fat.|
|I saved this duck fat from another dish I was working on, but you can buy duck fat as well.|
|I like cooking chicken livers in animal fats (schmaltz, bacon fat, duck fat, clarified butter), which hold a higher smoke point than plant-based oils (olive oil, etc.) and impart a nice flavor as well.|
|This is a little less than a half-cup of duck fat and the oil depth is about 1/4-inch.|
|Pat the livers dry one more time and season them lightly with salt and pepper.|
Heat the duck fat on medium-high heat.
Hot duck fat is… hot.
Now, it is time for a public safety announcement concerning cooking with hot oil.
|The fun starts at the 00:40 mark.|
This video illustrates nicely what happens when you introduce water to extremely hot oil. (It also illustrates some people’s fascinating hobbies.) This is why you want your chicken livers as dry as possible before you plop them in to cook. I find flouring the livers (most common way to cook liver) reduces the chance of flare-ups (it makes the surface of the liver even more dry) while also providing a nice breaded texture.
However, this recipe turns out best when the livers are cooked without flour or breading. I have very little regard for my own safety, especially under the threat of good food, so I cook these livers plain. Due to my traditional Asian upbringing, I have a very high tolerance for heat, burns, and scalds. All the same, I cook this dish wearing a long-sleeved shirt. I would use safety goggles and an astronaut helmet, too, if I had them. A gas mask would not be out of line.
Slide the livers into the hot oil using long tongs, being careful not to crowd the pan. The pan I used is small (as is the kitchen, as is the cook) so I cooked just two livers at a time.
Unfloured livers going into hot duck fat. That’s a high-risk investment right there.
Now, let us discuss how being lazy leads to trouble. Prior to soaking the livers in milk, I should have separated the livers (chicken livers have two main sections or lobes) and trimmed off the excess fat, but I did not because I was lazy. Separating and trimming chicken livers is not just for aesthetics, it is also for safety. Fat contains a lot of water. When you put fat (with its water) into hot oil, things may explode (like you saw in the video above) and cover you, and your kitchen, in boiling oil.
Pour boiling oil on your enemies who are trying to break down your castle door with a battering ram. Don’t pour boiling oil on yourself. Contrary to what you may have heard, it does not improve one’s complexion.
Did sh#t explode in my kitchen?
Fireworks ain’t got nothin’ on duck fat.
|To protect my eyes (they’re useful for playing pool and stuff) and to cut down on clean-up, I used the (washed and dried) strainer as a splatter guard.|
|Having a deeper pot and longer tongs may also cut down on the exploding-oil-in-your-face factor.|
|Fry each liver for 1 minute to 1-1/2 minutes each side.|
|Don’t worry about undercooking. When cooking liver, it is most important not to overcook them. Cut the first cooked liver to test if you are not sure how things are progressing. A nicely cooked liver is still pink on the inside and the texture is still smooth. Overcooked livers end up dry and mealy.|
|Set aside each liver as it finishes cooking. After the last liver has cooked, let them sit around for another 5 minutes. You can sit around for 5 minutes, too. You may also take this time to call for the appropriate medical aid (if you are still capable of doing so).|
|Back from the hospital?|
|Get to work and dice the livers. I like 1/4-inch dice, but if that’s too fine, a larger dice will also work. A VERY sharp knife comes in handy here.|
|Once again, don’t worry if some look undercooked — that will be rectified soon enough (if it bothers you).|
|GENTLY fold the diced livers into the warm relish with a small heatproof spatula.|
|If you want your liver cooked further, turn up the heat (but not higher than medium-low) and carefully stir until the hot relish cooks the livers to your desired doneness level. Watch to make sure you don’t overcook the livers. Overcooked livers, relished or not, are icky.|
C’est magnifique, non?
If you buy crostini like I do, note that they are usually seasoned. Take that into account when you are seasoning your relish and cut back on the salt.
This dish set is so great.
If you have the time, make your own toasts by brushing French baguette slices with good olive oil and toasting them lightly in an oven. Store-bought crostini is very convenient, but does not compare with homemade toasts.
Putting things on crostini makes me feel fancy. Even typing the word “crostini” requires extended pinky fingers and a monocle.
Earlier this year, someone complained to me that she was considered “chopped liver”. Chopped liver, when done right, is absolutely wonderful. I should have told her to stop patting herself on the back.
I encourage you to get better-quality livers from organic or free-range chickens — they cook up differently than the standard supermarket ones. This recipe makes 3-4 cups of chopped liver.
Since this is a rather involved recipe, the links to a PDF download are included below.
chopped chicken livers with balsamic onion relish
- 1 pound chicken livers, lobes separated and trimmed of fat
- whole milk to soak livers
- 6 to 8 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 2 bunches green onions, white, light green and tender green parts, sliced thin
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 4 tablespoons red wine (I used sherry)
- 1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
- oil, butter, or fat for frying livers
- salt and pepper
- lightly toasted baguette slices
|Download the recipe in PDF||Cups & Ounces||Milliliters & Grams|
|♬ And although there’s pain in my chest|
|I still wish you the best with a…|
|“FOIE YOU!” ♬|
|This post for Chef Griffin of Arizona and people who like liver.|
|Happy Foie of July! 🙂|