Liver and Let Die (Chicken Livers with Leeks, Balsamic Vinegar, and Dried Apricots)

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It’s summer. It’s hot. Most people, hot in summer, do not crave liver. I didn’t mean to crave liver. In actuality, I haven’t eaten much liver in my life. I’ve eaten chopped liver–but that seems like a different thing: masked by egg and onions, eating chopped liver at a deli and eating a whole chicken liver is like the difference between eating canned tuna and eating tuna tartar. I’d had the can, I was ready for the real thing.

Only, what constitutes the real thing? We know that the best chickens are free range and, ideally, organic. Is that true of their livers? Unfortunately, I didn’t have much choice. My store, which carries a great variety of chickens, only had one kind of liver:

chicken liver box

The recipe I set out to do came from Mario Batali’s “Simple Italian Food.” He calls for 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed and drained which I promptly did:

draining chicken livers

At this point, I grew nervous. Is a chicken liver like a foie gras? Do I need to clean it? I researched this online and discovered that, indeed, there might be veins one should clean out. So I began digging in with my fingers–it was nasty work–until I realized I was pulling the livers apart. So, I stopped, and decided that veins are what make chicken livers delicious. As the post title says: liver and let die.

I dried my livers carefully:

drying chicken liver

Then I dredged them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper:

seasoned chicken liver

At the ready, I had 2 large leeks, rinsed and cut into 2-inch julienne and 8 oz. dried apricot:

chopped leeks and apricot

In a 12-inch pan, I heated 4 Tbs of olive oil over medium heat until it was smoking and then I added the livers:

sauteeing chicken liver

Before leaving to run an errand, Diana said, “My dad [who cooks lots of liver] says the most important thing is not to ___cook them.”

Now I heard her say: UNDERcook them.

What she later said she said was: OVERcook them.

So I was nervous about UNDERcooking them and may have OVERcooked them (Mario says cook 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown):

cooked chicken livers

After removing them, I added the leeks and apricots and cooked until the leeks were softened for 6 to 8 minutes:

leeks and apricots cooking

Then, you return the livers to the pan, add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 3 Tbs butter and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Then you add 2 cups of curly endive (or “frisee”), toss to coat, and serve immediately.

chicken livers with apricot and frisee

This dish failed on two basic levels: (1) I overcooked the liver; (2) it was too hardy for summer. But the overcooked liver was the real snafu: it was mealy and nasty. I hated it. I wanted to make it die, but it was already dead. Luckily the richness of the liver enriched the other elements: I enjoyed the rich sauce that coated the curly endive and the apricots. Actually, the apricots were the best part. They were great.

But this dish was a bad idea. What was I thinking? I’m not very smart. But lucky for you, I’m entertaining in my failures!

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