Magic Mushrooms Number 2

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What Am I, Chopped Liver?

For many, the idea of eating liver of any derivation is on par with a big plate of brussel sprouts and a hefty dose of castor oil before bedtime.  

Not so for me.  At least when it comes to chicken livers, and especially if they are combined with sauteed mushrooms.  

It may be cheap (enough organic chicken livers to feed a family of four cost me a whopping $1.55, though I won't try and fool you into believing that my children ate this), but there is no air of deprivation around this dish.  

It is rustic but elegant, and downright decadent.  Think France.  Think bistro.  There is butter, there is wine, there is crème fraîche, but balanced against a generous handful of bright, crisp rocket/arugala, tossed in a sharp sherry vinaigrette, it feels both rich and fresh, at the same time.  

Pour a glass of wine.  Turn on the stereo and turn down the lights.  

When the last of the creme fraiche mingles with the vinaigrette and you are greedily tearing at the remaining baguette for sopping up, you will be glad that you opted for candlelight.  

Sauteed Mushrooms & Chicken Livers With Seasoned Crème Fraîche
2 enormous Portabello mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 organic chicken livers
one onion, diced
unsalted butter
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
a pinch of fresh thyme leaves
splash of white wine

4 long slices of baguette (sliced on the diagonal), toasted and buttered
2 large handfuls rocket/arugala, tossed in Sherry Vinaigrette (see below)
1 ramekin crème fraîche, seasoned generously with sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat large sautee pan on medium-high/high.  Add hefty knob of butter.  Sautee onion, mushrooms and thyme leaves, tossing regularly.  Try not to overcrowd the pan, or the mushrooms will be limp and soggy, rather than sauteed to a crisp, golden brown.  

Add whole chicken livers. Season with salt and pepper.  

Cook till livers are firm, but not hard.  You are aiming for beautifully browned on the outside, silky and pink, but not rare, in the center; if they are over-cooked, they will have an unpleasant grey color and mealy texture.  When you press them with your finger, they should yield ever so slightly, but not so much that they feel gelatinous - if they do, keep going a few minutes longer.*  

Remove livers and mushrooms from pan.  

Deglaze the pan with a splash of whatever white wine you have hanging around in the fridge - a 1/4 - 1/2 cup should do.  Scrape good bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add another knob of cold butter (smaller this time), swirl around, and remove from heat.  Check seasoning and adjust, if required.

Thinly slice the chicken livers.  If they are underdone, quickly toss them back in the deglazed pan for one brief moment, over low heat, till perfect pinkness is achieved.  

Pile mushrooms high on top of toasted, buttered baguette slices (2 per plate).  Lay sliced chicken liver on top of mushrooms.  Pour pan juices over mushrooms and liver.  Top with a grand dollop of seasoned crème fraîche.  Accompany with Rocket/Arugala tossed with Sherry Vinaigrette.  

Sherry Vinaigrette
I make my salad dressing in an old jam jar with a tight fitting lid, as a vigorous shaking seems to produce a much better emulsion that whisking or stirring.  Call me Bond.  James Bond.

Pour in 2-3 Tablespoons Sherry Vinegar.
Add one tablespoon Dijon mustard.
Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Screw the lid on and shake till emulsified.
Add 4-5 Tablespoons virgin olive oil (I am not fussy about virgin or extra-virgin; one will provide a robust olive flavor, the other a more delicate result - please yourself).
Screw lid on and shake again.
Test seasoning by dipping in one lettuce leaf and taste.  Adjust as necessary.  

Drizzle small amount over lettuce in a large bowl and toss, adding more vinaigrette as you go, to avoid over-dressing.  

*Here is a handy trick.  Make a tight fist with your dominant hand.  With your opposite index finger, poke the bulging bit of muscle that pops up in the bend between your thumb and index finger joints.  The firmness of that muscle is equivalent to medium-rare, no matter what meat you are cooking.  With the livers, go slightly firmer than that.


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