Why It Works
- Moistening the stuffing with a puréed mixture of sautéed livers and stock infuses the entire dish with a pâté-like richness.
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. A tender, carb-heavy side imbued with the essence of meat. It contains loads of butter, and sometimes, eggs. So, it's sort of custard-like as well.
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 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 as a flavoring for stuffing because it's still a separate ingredient from stuffing. In this recipe, liver invades the stuffing. It is like an alien invading a host until the two are one and the same.
You do this, by first sautéing a few livers, then puréeing 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 these liver products are.
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. I 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-puréed adhered to the bread like little pats of smeared pâté. It was rich and intensely liver-y. And, just to be a glutton, I served another couple of chicken livers alongside the stuffing, searing them until the centers were just cooked and had ceased to be blood-red. (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 of 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.
1 pound (about one medium-sized loaf) high quality sandwich bread or soft Italian or French bread, cut into 3/4-inch dice, about 8 cups
1 stick butter
2 medium-sized onions, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
5 to 6 chicken livers (about 10 ounces)
1 quart low-sodium store-bought or homemade chicken or turkey stock
2 large whole eggs
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Adjust oven racks to lower-middle and upper-middle position. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Spread bread evenly over 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake until bread cubes are completely dried, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating trays and stirring bread cubes several times during baking. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Increase oven heat to 375°F (190°C).
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onions and celery and sauté over medium heat until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Pat livers dry with a paper towel and cut into 2-inch segments. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the pan over high heat. Add livers and cook until well browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until centers are medium-rare, about 1 minute longer. Remove livers and add 1 cup of stock to pan. Remove from heat.
In a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender, purée livers with the deglazing liquid until mixture is mostly smooth with a few small chunks of liver remaining. Set aside.
Whisk remaining stock, eggs, and dried herbs in large bowl until homogeneous. Whisk in liver mixture. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in bread cubes, onions, and celery.
Use part of stuffing to stuff bird if desired. To cook remaining stuffing, transfer to a buttered 9-inch square baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until an instant-read thermometer reads 150°F (66°C) when inserted into center of dish, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until golden brown and crisp on top, about 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
One 9-inch square baking dish, instant-read thermometer
This recipe can be doubled easily. To double, bake the stuffing in a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||28%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||58%|
|Total Carbohydrate 45g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||10%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 21mg||103%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|