Ask the average person to name his or her favorite meats: chances are liver won't be high on the list, despite its excellent nutritional value and low cost. Usually, it's the strong-flavored varieties, from beef and pork, that people dislike the most. But chicken liver is a different story. It tastes milder, it's less dry, and it fits into wider range of recipes. In addition to its popularity in appetizers, it can be prepared in many delicious ways as a main dish.
Like other kinds of liver, chicken liver is a plentiful source of iron, protein and B vitamins. It cost has remained very reasonable over the years. Chicken liver is economical in another sense, too: There is no waste. And, since it tends to be rich, one pound or less will serve four people adequately, especially if you cook it with a filling tomato or cream sauce, accompanied by rice or pasta. Chicken livers should not be overcooked. They become very dry and grainy.
Because chicken liver does not keep very long, plan to use it a day or two after purchase; otherwise, store it in the freezer.
If there are skeptics in your household, you can try winning them over with any of the following chicken liver recipes.
CHOPPED CHICKEN LIVER (4 to 6 servings)
Jewish-style chopped liver is made with schmaltz, or rendered chicken fat, which can be prepared at home with fat taken from whole chikens or purchased in jars wherever kosher food products are sold and in many supermarkets. 1 cup schmaltz (chicken fat) or butter 2 medium onions, finely chopped 1 pound chicken livers 3 hard-cooked eggs Salt and pepper to taste
Heat fat in a large skillet and saute onions until brown. Add livers, and cook until all red color is gone. Drain off chicken fat and reserve. Using a food processor or a chef's knife, finely chop onions, liver and eggs together. Transfer to a bowl. Add reserved fat and salt and pepper to taste. Chill thoroughly before serving. Serve with plan crackers or miniature rye bread.
CANNELONI (6 to 8 servings) Crepes: 1 1/2 cups milk 1 1/2 cups flour 3 eggs 1 teaspoon melted butter, plus more for cooking Filling: 2 tablespoon butter or margarine 1 pound chicken livers 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, crushed 1/2 pound ground beef 1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon sage 1/4 teaspoon thyme 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping) Sauce: 3 tablespoons butter or margarine 3 tablespoons flour 1 1/2 cups milk 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
The crepes, or the entire recipe, may be prepared ahead. If doing it on the day of serving, prepare crepe batter several hours in advance: Place all ingredients in blender container, and blend at high speed until smooth. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour. To make crepes, heat a 7-or 8-inch crepe or non-stick pan over medium heat. Brush pan with additional melted butter, and pour in just enough batt to cover bottom. Let crepe cook until golden on the botton; turn and cook on the other side. Do not let crepe brown. Slide crepe onto a wire rack, and repeat the process until all batter is used. Keep crepes covered with a cloth while preparing filling and sauce.
To make filling, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet, and saute chicken livers until brown; remove, set aside. In same skillet, saute onion and garlic until tender. Add beef, and cook until brown. Remove skillet from heat. With a food processor or chef's knife, finely mince the chicken liver, and add to the skillet, along with seasonings and 1/4 cup of parmesan.
Make sauce by melting 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Remove from heat and gradually add the milk; cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened. Stir in nutmeg, and remove from heat.
To assemble canneloni, place about 2 tablespoons of filling in center of each crepe. Roll up, and place, seam side down, in a greased shallow baking pan. Spoon sauce evenly over crepes, and sprinkle with remaining parmesan. The dish may be made in advance up to this point. Bake canneloni, uncovered, in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly.
CHICKEN LIVER & MUSHROOM SAUCE (4 to 6 servinces)
A flavorful, all-purpose sauce that can be served over rice, noodles, an omelette, or toast points. 3 tablespoons (1 stick) butter or margarine 1 pound chicken livers 1 large onion, finely chopped 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 cup flour 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 cups light cream or half-and-half 2 tablespoons dry sherry
Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat, and saute chicken livers until brown on all sides. Remove livers with a slotted spoon, cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Add onion and mushrooms to skillet and sprinkle with lemon juice. Cook until onion is golden - about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, and stir in flour. Worcestershire and salt until well blended. Gradually stir in cream, and return skillet to low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and smooth. Add chicken livers, and simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in sherry. Serve hot with rice or other accompaniments suggested above.
CHICKEN LIVER MARINARA SAUCE (4 servings) 1/4 cup olive oil 4 cloves garlic, crushed 1 large onion, finely chopped 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips 2/4 to 1 pound chicken livers 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, undrained 1 can (12 ounces) tomato paste 1 teaspoon oregano Dash of cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon sugar Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat, and saute garlic, onion and green pepper until tender - about 5 minutes. Add chicken livers, and cook, stirring frequently, until brown on all sides. Remove and reserve. Add remaining ingredients and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat, cover skillet, and simmer sauce for 1 hour. Return livers to heat through. Taste, and correct seasonings. To serve, pour sauce over cooked spaghetti or any other variety of pasta.