“Slammed.” That was what my youngest daughter told me when I presented her with this meal last night. She bit into the liver and you might have thought I poisoned her. She said that I “slammed” her with the unexpected and unwanted and that she proclaimed (almost hurl like) that she does not eat organ meat. No worries, cause the husband utterly loved them. I will say I am not a big chicken liver fan, but the dressing alone is killer. The trick was getting a really nice red wine vinegar.
When I set out to create this particular menu for last night, I thought it was a no brainer- easy to put together and taking up little of my time. Duh…not so. French cooking does not translate into easy or fast cooking. It is a thoughtful process. Some 4-5 ingredient recipes can take even longer.
I mentioned in my last post that I would set out my plan for this year’s blog emphasis. I will be working 6 months learning and cooking all things French and the last 6 months learning Latin American cooking. I think both food genres deserve that much time. For French cooking, I will be working out some of the things that make it French…stocks, demi-glaces, vinegars, potatoes (frites), and so much more, utilizing a lot of practice and patience. I plan on cooking at least 20-25 French meals a month and some of those might be repeats in order to fine tune the recipe. Staying true to mission of this blog, our family will learn about the country with music, art and literature. We will delve into the French culture and as always we will offer prayers for that country and for their contributions to our ever-expanding world- so join me and my family in this six month venture.
Back to the bloody thing- chicken livers. I have read now 4 books on French cooking and what I find is that the French are not afraid to use every kind of animal meat and their entrails. As Chef Bourdain terms it the “blood and guts- the good stuff.” He went so far as to mention that what went wrong with American cuisine was when this stuff started to disappear off American menus after WWII. Here is a sample of some of the recipes from his book Les Halles Cookbook and others: “Tripes-Les Halles” (tripe), “Rognons de Veau a la Moutarde” (Veal Kidneys), “Foie de Veau Lyonnaise” (Liver steaks) and from Patricia Wells’ cookbook Bistro Cooking, dishes like these are tame in comparison: “Haricorts Rouges Aux Boudin Noir et Chorizo” (Spicy Chorizo Sausage and Blood Sausage with Red Beans), and something that is showing up more and more in American kitchens- “Duabe de Queue de Boeuf” (Oxtail Stew). Now this is not all the stuff I am going to be cooking, but included in the menus, I will have more sexy sounding things like Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic (and you thought you had not cooked something very French), Bouef Bourguinon, Coq au Vin, Cassoulet, Pain Perdu-French toast (another one of those French things you cooked) and Pomme Frites (French Fries), among many other French classics.
But here was last night’s recipe/meal. We had it with French Bread (ok- really American bread bought in an American store and French bakers would scoff at this, but the intent was there) brushed with olive oil and broiled, boiled eggs and Salad of Fresh Spinach Livers and Sauteed Chicken Livers -La Salade D’Epinards Aux Foies De Volailles from Patricia Wells’ book Bistro Cooking. Ms. Wells informs the cook that one can find this sort of food in bistros all over Lyons- remember the Lyonnaise salade – lettuce, bacon, croutons, and poached egg (now another French dish you may have made). Lyons is also famous for their Cotes de Rhone wines and Beaujolais. So next time you pick one of those bottles you can impress your friends and tell them it is from Lyons region.
Here is the recipe and read to the end for some takeaways.
Salad of Fresh Spinach and Sauteed Chicken Livers
La Salade D’Epinards Aux Foies De Volailles by Patricia Wells “Bistro Cooking”
12 chicken livers, halved (if you can find farm raised, might raise the quality, no matter, they are still very cheap)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons best quality red wine vinegar
1/2 cup peanut oil ( I used olive oil)
1. Arrange the spinach on 4 large salad plates
2. Season the chicken livers with salt and pepper to taste. In a small skillet, melt he butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken livers and sauté for just 2-3 minutes for rather pinkish livers, 5-7 minutes if you prefer your livers well done. They should remain moist and tender and should just begin to give up their juices. While still on the heat, deglaze the chicken livers with the vinegar, stirring up any browned pieces that may have gotten stuck, then add the oil and stir until the mixture is warm and blended.
3. Evenly arrange the warm chicken livers and the dressing on top of the spinach. Yield 4 servings.
My takeaway: As I said before the best part of the salad was the dressing. Look for a really good red wine vinegar, you will use it in all your salads. It is the wow factor in my opinion. Also take your time and pinch off the spinach leaves from the stem and don’t do what I have done which was cut them off in one hack…looks really bad. Sit down and enjoy with a nice white wine. We received as a gift a nice Santa Barbara California White-fabulous and a lovely perfect French meal. Bon Appétit.