The Nasty Bits: Liver Stuffing
I bet you've never looked at your Thanksgiving stuffing and thought, gee, wouldn't it be ten times better if it had liver in it?
Stuffing, after all, is already a perfect food. It is a carb, but made tender and good by the essence of meat. It contains loads of butter, and sometimes, eggs. So it is a kind of custard, or basically.
In fact I'm of the opinion that stuffing is, hands down, the best thing about Thanksgiving. Not the turkey, because I can get my crispy skin on any old day. Not the pie, because it is acceptable to eat pie year-round. But stuffing really only shows up around the holidays, and this, for the life of me, is something I will never understand.
I remember eating stuffing as a little girl, maybe a few years out of China, and thinking, why don't you Americans eat stuffing every day, it is just so incredibly good?
But take my word for it: if you love stuffing, and you happen to love or even like liver, then your Thanksgiving stuffing will be indeed be made ten times better with the addition of liver.
The liver enriches the dish in a way that no other cut of meat can. Sausage can't hold a candle to liver in terms of an accompaniment, because it's still a separate ingredient from stuffing, whereas liver invades stuffing. It is like the alien that invades the host, until the two are one and the same.
You do this, by first sauteing a few livers, then pureeing them with some of the stock that goes to moisten the bread. In this way, you get liver-flavored bread, and if you don't think that would be any good, well, just think about pâté, think of foie gras, and how very rich and creamy and delicious are these liver products.
Now I must confess that Ben Fishner is the progenitor of liver stuffing, an idea he got when he thought about making stuffing with giblets.
Ben, for his trials, used two to three chicken livers in his liver purée. But for this batch, I had at least five or six livers in the pan. (Operating under the presumption that more livers = more liver taste.) I sautéed them in lots of butter, then mixed in Ben's excellent homemade chicken stock, and the eggs. Puréed the whole thing until it was chunky-smooth, because I wanted to leave a clear indication of the liver involved. The result was this very rich liquid that I sipped and sipped, until Ben reminded me that we were supposed to be using said liquid for the stuffing. (He also said, upon seeing the utter gustatory pleasure I took in sipping, that "they sure broke the mold when they made you," which was just about the nicest thing someone had said to me in a long time.)
The rest is history. The mixture baked beautifully—crispy on the surface, all custard-like in the center. The tiny bits of liver which I had left un-pureed adhered to the bread like little pats of smeared pate. It was rich and intensely liver-y. And, just to be a glutton, I seared another couple of chicken livers, until the centers were just cooked, until they had just ceased to be blood-red, and served them alongside the liver. (Turkey? What turkey?)
And as for the stuffing leftovers, well, I am having trouble deciding whether I love it better hot or cold. I love it pan-fried in the skillet, but it is also extremely good right out the fridge. Pan-fried, it tastes decidedly bread-like. But cold? Cold, it bears an uncanny resemblance to pâté. So much so that I had a plate of it with a glass of wine, and felt very indulgent indeed.
About the author: Born in Shanghai and raised in New Mexico, Chichi Wang currently resides in Manhattan, where she divides her time between writing, cooking, and tracking down the best noodles in the city. Visit her blog, Mostly Tripe.