Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fried chicken livers

Fried chicken livers | Homesick Texan

Last week I found myself with a surplus of chicken livers. This doesn’t occur very often in my kitchen, so at first I wasn’t sure what to do. But I shouldn’t have worried as I soon decided frying them up and dipping them in cream gravy would be the best way to use up what I had.

Fried chicken livers are a classic Texan dish, but you don’t see them very often these days. Perhaps your grandmother made them when you were young, but it’s only on rare occasions that I spot them on restaurant menus or even in someone’s home kitchen. And this is a shame as these crunchy nuggets always hit the spot.

While I was pondering fried chicken livers, I thought back to the last time I had them. It was two years ago in the East Texas town of Silsbee when I was on tour for my last book. After my event we went to get lunch at The Cottage, which was a happy place filled with comfortable furniture and friendly people who jumped from table to table visiting with each other. Dining there was like being in someone’s home.

Fried chicken livers | Homesick Texan

The owner, Flo, is famous for her hamburgers and hand-cut fries, which were indeed very good. But when I spotted fried chicken livers on the menu, I ordered a round of these for the table, too. They arrived along with a side of cream gravy (that’s the preferred dipping sauce though I’ve known some to go with buttermilk dressing or even ketchup), and we all picked up a piece, dipped it in gravy, and savored the crisp texture and lush flavor. It was a fine beginning to a hearty meal out in the East Texas woods.

Now I realize that not everyone likes liver and I can understand that—I’m not fond of beets, for instance, and shake my head with wonder whenever someone tells me that they love them, as I just don’t see their appeal. That said, for those of us who are fans of the rich, mineral-like flavor of this tender meat, finding it in fried form is perhaps not its highest expression (I reckon that would be some fancy pâté), but it is a satisfying one, and just may be my favorite way to prepare them.

Making fried chicken livers is much like making chicken-fried steak, as there is an egg wash along with a double dredge. For my final dip, I like to use finely crushed saltines as they add an extra crunch to the batter, which I find is necessary as the meat encased is so soft you need a strong fortress surrounding it to give it heft.

Frying the chicken livers can be a bit dangerous, as there’s lots of water in the meat which reacts intensely with the hot oil. I suggest that you keep your arms covered and wield a spatula with a long handle for turning and such. Now don’t be too frightened of the pops, as they don’t last long and by the time that particular batch of fried chicken livers is done they will have completely subsided. Though know that they will return when the next round hits the oil so it’s good to be prepared—I don’t want anyone to get hurt!

Once the livers are done, you make a batch of cream gravy. If your frying oil tastes good, you can use that. But if it’s too bitter or burnt than I like to spoon out a dollop of fat from my reserve of bacon grease I keep in my refrigerator for situations such as these. While there’s nothing wrong with getting fancy with your cream gravy, I'm fond of a classic rendition with perhaps a few shakes of hot sauce for additional punch.

Fried chicken livers | Homesick Texan

Once the gravy is made, you bring it all to the table and everyone takes a piece and dunks. It’s creamy, crunchy, and good. They are extremely rich, so I can never eat as many as I’d hoped. If there are any leftovers, however, they reheat well in the oven. And then you can experience the joy of fried chicken livers and cream gravy all over again.

Fried chicken livers

1 pound chicken livers, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 1/2 cups saltine cracker crumbs, finely ground
2 large eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
Cream gravy, for serving

In a large bowl, soak the chicken livers in 1/2 cup of the buttermilk for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to prepare for breading the livers, mix the flour, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a large plastic food-storage bag. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs with the remaining 1 cup of buttermilk. Place the saltine crumbs on a plate.

Once the livers have soaked, drain them (discarding the soaking buttermilk) then lightly season them with salt and pepper. Place the chicken livers in the flour bag and shake until they are well coated. In batches, dip the flour-coated livers into the eggs and then lightly dredge in the saltine crumbs. Place cracker-coated livers on a large plate or sheet. Repeat until all the livers are coated.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil on medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the temperature by sticking a wooden spoon into the oil. If it bubbles around the spoon, it should be ready for frying. Line a sheet pan with paper towels.

Fry the livers for 5 minutes or until brown and crisp, turning once. (When you place the livers into the skillet, be careful, as there may be excessive popping of the oil.) Depending on the size of your skillet will probably have to fry them in several batches. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with cream gravy.

4-6 servings

While I like to keep it simple, adding other spices and herbs to the flour mixture, such as sage, garlic powder, and chili powder, are also very good




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Anonymous said...

I am not a lover of liver... but have friends who go to Hartz Chicken Buffet just to get the fried livers and gizzards. They say they are excellent.
Texas Gramma

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Texas Gramma-I've never had Hartz's before but it's hard to mess up fried chicken livers and gizzards.

Erica said...

I used to love these as a toddler, hated them as a teen - haven't tried them again in adulthood. This recipe makes me think I should go buy some and give them another chance.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Erica--If you loved them once, you could probably love them again!

Jane said...

My 3 favorite parts of a chicken are the wings, liver and gizzard. I also love chicken liver pate - great on a toasted pumpernickel bagel. Great idea to use crushed saltines for the coating, Lisa. Extra crunch. I also use them when making fried chicken strips.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Jane--Making pate is next on my list, as I've never made it but enjoy it as well. And I also love the crunch you get with crushed crackers!

Susan H Beaty said...

My husband is a big fan of fried chicken livers and when he fries them he wears safety glasses to keep the oil from the pops from hitting him in the eye.

Karen said...

Ever tried the fried chicken livers at the Dixie House in Dallas? Is the Dixie House still around? These were a great treat so many years ago. Lisa, thanks for renewing my interest in these delectable treats!

Jennifer said...

I would urge anyone who doesn't like liver to try these - there is a BIG difference between beef liver (e.g., liver and onions) and fried chicken livers. Chicken livers are much milder - my husband hates beef liver but likes these. My son said they were the best 'chicken nuggets' he's had, lol. And they're so cheap!

I love fried chicken livers, and I can't wait to try your recipe!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Susan--Your husband is very smart! I love that he wears safety goggles and may have to try that myself!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Karen--Unfortunately, I never tried the chicken livers at the Dixie House and I believe it's no longer open. But no matter where you enjoy them, fried chicken livers are always a treat. I don't think I've ever had a bad batch.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Jennifer--Hear! Hear! I also love beef liver but as you say, chicken livers are indeed much more mild.

Anonymous said...

Mmm, mmm. Love me some fried chicken livers! I'm a ketchup dipper myself. It's funny you had them on the book tour in Silsbee, that's when I sent my mom to come get a signed book, but they were already sold out. She said you were super nice though and signed a piece of paper for me that I have in my copy of your book. I live in Florida, so that's why I asked my mom to go...don't judge people. HA!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--I remember your mom! And I had such a good time in Silsbee--everyone was so friendly. I look forward to returning!

Kathryn Rocheleau said...

When I lived in Austin I ALWAYS ordered the Fried Chicken Livers. I am banned from making them in our house unless hubby is out of town. He hates them so much he can't even stand the smell of them frying. So these are my secret indulgence when he's gone. You make them pretty much like I do, but the cracker crumbs are a good idea. :)

Kate said...

I can't stand cow liver but for some reason chicken liver I can eat. I've never tried it with gravy--sounds good!

Lisa W said...

At college in Natchitoches, the Student Union cafeteria often served fried livers and gizzards with a side of dirty rice. Cream gravy sounds good, but I love Tabasco and A-1 mixed together.

Midnight Agenda said...

I live in Houston so close enough to make a day trip to try out a new restaurant but when I looked it up I found that The Cottage appears to be permanently closed.

Though I do have a Hartz Chicken closeby so I may go there soon to try them out. Ive always been curious to try these but never got around to it.

It is a treat though when you mention a place to eat around here, I add it to my list to check out.

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