So, last night, I made Paprikash and it was a big hit. I had to fight the cats off the entire time. The boys are usually quite polite, but Huginn (the more mild mannered of the two) has a bit of the crazy when it comes to meat. If you give him a little sliver of raw heart, he will growl the entire time he is eating it. He doesn’t guard his food dish at all, but coming between him and a slice of calf liver is not a life choice I’d recommend.
As it turns out, Celia was super generous, and we had too much offal! I ended up carving up the hearts and gizzards to put in the paprikash (which was amazing, though still a bit soupy by the time we ate) and made a snack for myself as the paprikash bubbled away. Here’s what I did with the chicken livers…
Liver is honestly best when it is cooked for a very short period of time. It is an organ that is perhaps most unlike the usual muscle-based meat that is a staple of the American diet. Texture-wise, when cooked as it should be, it’s a lot like velvet. There is no toothiness or chew to it at all. Flavor wise, it can be strongly metallic, and a teensy bit bitter. It pairs well with smokey flavors, maple, lemon, cilantro, and hot-stuff. One of the great things about chicken liver is that they’re pretty small, so they cook up really quickly in a hot cast iron.
I heated up my cast iron skillet with fair amount of butter. For me, a “fair” amount is like, a tablespoon. Ghee would also work nicely, but I’m lazy and haven’t made a batch in ages. I would not recommend olive oil for this job. When the butter was starting to foam, I coated the pan in a spice blend of Tom’s that contains smoked maple as a primary flavor. I cleaned the livers quickly by rinsing them in cold water, and put them directly in the pan, toward the center. There were close to fifteen or twenty of them in the bag Celia gave me, all between the size of a walnut and the size of an apricot (but you know, flat and wiggly). I cooked them for what felt like the correct amount of time. I usually judge meat based on approximations and feel. I believe this was close to a minute and a half per side, or two minutes a side for the larger pieces. They will bleed a bit, when you flip them. I don’t really fret about under-cooked anything, except ground meat products from the grocery store because they often don’t clean the meat as well as I’d like before it hits the grinder. I threw the livers in a bowl, and snacked with Tom while he made me a gin and tonic.
They were pretty intensely flavored, which I expect from farm-raised stock. They eat a varied diet, run around, chase bugs, and engage in the usual derp for which chickens are somewhat famous. Tom thought they were a great treat, and I was pretty pleased with their pink, velvety texture. I’m looking forward to the leftovers with a bit of Sriracha tonight when I get home and get ready to make supper.
I should make simple quick things like this more often. I think next time, I will try it with some fresh sage and lemon juice.
The rest of this post is dedicated to Carl, hater of all things Woo, and Listener-to of All My Crazy.
A thing that makes me have a little crazymouth is when people tell me food I like is “gross”. Like, hey. It might not be your thing, and that’s okay. But making faces while I eat something you might not like, and being all, “Ew that’s the body’s filtration system it’s full of /toxins/” shows not only a a gross misunderstanding of physiology, it is also just plain rude. First of all, contentious point: I don’t know what you mean by “toxins” and I don’t think you know, either. There’s a lot of woo about “eating clean” and “toxins” and “cleanses” that a very small amount of rigorous research would show is exactly that: woo. Secondly, in a healthy animal’s body, nothing of consequence builds up in the liver over time. It isn’t a filter, it’s a conversion factory and distribution center. It processes things from our metabolic processes that can be harmful, and converts them into things the body can use, or something harmless to be excreted (example: the conversion of ammonia, a natural byproduct of the liver’s metabolic processes in which food becomes energy for your cells, into urea, which is far more harmless [a primary ingredient in Nair and other cosmetic products!] and is excreted when you pee). It’s not wise to overdo it with liver specifically, because Vitamin A and Copper toxicity, while rare (PUN! cos liver), is a thing. Too much of either can be harmful. I usually eat liver less than once a month, and I consume it for the treat it is — in small doses and with a lot of enthusiasm. Like anything, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
That said, any animal parts you eat are bound to have some cholesterol. Cholesterol isn’t bad on it’s own, but it needs to be balanced properly for your heart and vascular system to stay healthy over time. If you’re worried about your cholesterol, you can talk to your doctor, and ask them to do a CBC+Differential and cholesterol screening (I do this every year to two years, because cardiovascular disease sounds like the worst band name ever). The results of that test are something you can discuss with your doctor or nutritionist, and they can suggest changes if your particular body requires them; for example, if the ratio of your TBC/HDL is too high.
If you’re worried about your cholesterol, let me tell you what probably won’t help: a juice cleanse you looked up on the internet once without the supervision of a physician. If you’re worried about your weight, maybe try medically managed weight loss and a thyroid screening instead of a Cabbage Soup Diet. I love cabbage as much as the next girl (which is to say, a lot) but cabbage can act as a goitrogen (that is, in high amounts not offset with the presence of iodine in your diet, it can suppress thyroid function). Our bodies are pretty good at what they do, barring congenital problems, the breakdown that accompanies aging, and you know, people doing dumb crap, like abusing narcotics. They’re not “dirty” and don’t need to be “cleansed”. They do, sometimes, need to go through a process of elimination, if you’re trying to figure out if you’re sensitive to a particular family of food items like dairy, grains, or sugar. Bodies are all different, and an eliminative dietary choice is something about which you should speak to your doctor if you’re having persistent or chronic problems that are disrupting your life. Your symptoms could be related to a deficiency as much as an over-abundance of something, and treating the internet like a dietary phone book you can select from randomly can put you on some dangerous paths. Like the Lemonade Diet, are you kidding me right now.