After all the barbeque I ate over the four-day Fourth Of July weekend, I started craving something different. Last night as I watched Harry Connick, Jr. put on one helluva show in Atlanta’s Chastain Park, I started thinking about chicken livers. Now there is a simple connection between Harry and Chicken livers. Harry is a unique performer from New Orleans and while watching him sing the blues, ballads, New Orleans jazz and even some gospel, it was only natural for me to think about livers while watching his show. New Orleans is synonymous with good food – po boys, oysters, etouffee, French foods and gumbo – and chicken livers are good food. There’s a perfectly logical connection.
Livers are unique in their own delicious way, and when you start craving them, there’s only one thing you can do – that’s right, eat some. So I will be cooking a pound of the ugly little red suckers tonight, and if you want a culinary delight, keep reading because I am going to tell you how to make them the best you have ever had.
The first thing you need to know about cooking livers is to not overcook them. Often you will get livers at Popeye’s or Kentucky Fried and the livers are cooked so long and hard you could pave your driveway with them. I know everyone is afraid to cook chicken products al dente, but overcooking has killed many a good meal.
To start, put enough peanut oil into a pot so that the oil is deeper than the thickest liver. You want your livers to float in the grease, not sit on the bottom. Peanut oil is the best because it remains stable at high cooking temperatures (between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit). If you are allergic to peanuts, you can use canola or vegetable oil, or just plain ole Crisco Lard like my momma used to do.
Heat the oil to about 375 F. While it is heating, you need to prepare your liver.
I like to use a combination of all purpose flour and corn flower in a 50-50 mix (if I am frying fish, I would use all corn flour). I also like to spice up my flour mix with lots of Pop Keller’s seasoning. It is made by my friend and baker/chef extraordinaire Kenny Keller, who cooks in Lafayette, Louisiana. Since you probably can’t get Kenny’s seasoning, you might use lots of Tony Chachere’s seasoning, which you can buy in most grocery stores (at least in the South).
I like to drench the livers in beaten eggs before I dredge the livers in the flour/corn flour dredge mix. The eggs will help the dry dredge stick to the meat. This works well for chicken or fish, or country fried steak. You don’t have to use eggs for the drench if you don’t care for eggs. Some people use buttermilk and I have even heard of one fellow in Louisiana who uses Ranch dressing.
When all the livers are ready, put them into the scalding grease (carefully, second degree burns are ready to jump all over any finger that strays to close to the oil).
I don’t really know how long you should cook the livers in the oil because I cook by feel and not with recipes and timers. Just look at the livers and see if they are turning brown. Try to keep the oil at 350 degrees. You might have to increase heat after the livers first go into the oil, because the temperature will take a nose dive initially. If you cook them below 350 degrees, they will be greasy.
While the livers are frying, whip up a little roux in a frying pan that is large enough to hold all the livers. For all y’all Yanks out there, a roux is made by slowly heating butter or oil while adding flour to the mix. As you heat the mix, you must constantly stir it to keep it from burning or sticking to the pan. As you slowly cook the flour in the oil or butter, it will start to turn a golden brown color. The longer you cook the roux, the darker the brown will get until it finally burns and turns black (you don’t want this). This roux will be used for the gravy in which you will smother your livers, after they are about 80% done in the fryer. A light to medium brown is a good color for liver gravy
When the roux is ready, put the partially-cooked livers into the pan with the roux and add chicken stock, or heavens forbid water if you have no chicken stock, to add volume to the roux. Let the roux and livers simmer for 15-20 minutes (or more or less). The liquid roux will smother the livers and finish the cooking process.
Serve the livers liberally over white rice. I prefer Zatarain’s long grain parboiled rice. They are also good over mashed potatoes.
When it is cool enough, eat, and eat a lot, because this is the stuff that God eats about three days a week. Enjoy.
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