Most people say they don’t like liver, but that’s just because they’ve only had the overcooked, tough, gritty mess that their school cafeteria and well-intentioned parents force-fed them under the guise of “good for you”. That’s the kind of thing that’ll build up a phobia right quick.
Which is too bad, because properly cooked chicken livers are the exact opposite of the Cafeteria Lady Special -gently soft and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Plus they’re dirt cheap for a gourmet ingredient, at the $2/lb my local grocery store charges for them.
The trick is to cook the liver until it’s still slightly underdone and pink in the centre, since they’ll continue cooking once off the heat. If you wait until they cook all the way through, they’ll end up a tough rubbery mess that even the cat won’t touch.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that this classic bistro-style salad is good for you. There’s more than enough saturated fat to negate the healthy dose of iron from the livers, and even a nice big plateful of greens isn’t going to change that.
However, it’s good. Damn good. And I’ll take that over “good for you” any day of the week, thankyouverymuch.
Warm Balsamic Chicken Liver Salad
6-8 cups salad greens
1 tbsp olive oil
3 strips bacon, chopped
1 small onion, cut into thin slices
1 small red pepper, cut into thin strips
1 lb chicken livers, trimmed and cut in half
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar (fig flavoured, if you can find it)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Arrange a nice big mound of salad greens in the middle of a large serving plate, or divide among four individual salad plates. You can opt for a basic mesclun mix, baby arugula, frisee (aka chickory), baby spinach, or a combination of all of the above – just make sure you pick a fairly assertive and flavourful kind of greens, and leave the romaine in the crisper for caesar salad night.
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add bacon, onion and red pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, until bacon is crisp and onion is golden, about 10 minutes. Remove to a small bowl, using a slotted spoon to leave as much fat in the pan as possible, and set aside.
Increase heat to high; add chicken livers to the pan. Saute until browned on the outside and slightly pink on the inside, about 2-3 minutes per side.
Remove pan from heat. Return bacon mixture to the pan and add balsamic and Dijon; quickly toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
Spoon the livers into the centre of the prepared greens, drizzling with the dressing from the pan. Serve warm, with a big chunk of crusty bread to mop up the plate.