Eaters who revel in other types of offal simply don't like liver. Liver prejudices abound for good reason: The much-maligned organ, apropos to its digestive-related functions, tastes only as good as the animal from which it comes. Foul-tasting liver takes many forms. As bad diner fare, a platter of crusty calf's liver turns so tough and spongy that a steak knife barely penetrates. Rightly so, we shudder at the thought of poorly prepared chopped liver, metallic in taste, specked throughout with rubbery hard-boiled eggs.
The best way to get over an aversion to liver is to seek out the freshest, cleanest source of liver you can afford. The most accessible is that of chickens, which, when properly raised, possess sweet-smelling, tender livers so rich and flavorful that you could comfortably live without the indulgence of foie gras. Like seafood, check to see if your chicken livers are at their best by putting your nose to the test: The livers should smell sweet, almost floral, with just the faintest hint of the iron-y flavors of the organ. After the jump, a recipe for chicken liver omelets.
Chicken livers taste indulgent. Fatty and creamy, the little organs take well to a stir-fry with sliced onions and purée beautifully for a mousse or pâté. When the livers are impeccably fresh, they're delicious quickly seared on a cast iron, sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. My favorite preparation of liver remains the liver omelet—golden brown on the outside, tender inside with seared liver and sautéed chanterelles, all bound with truffle oil, sherry, and fine European butter.
As an impecunious student turned writer, I've cooked this omelet on many an occasion, entertaining myself if not my friends with extremely embarrassing impressions of Julia Child shaking an omelet pan back and forth. The dish is a fine illustration of affordable indulgence, for even though the omelet employs expensive mushrooms, oil, butter, and liquor, it does so in modest quantities. Even without the chanterelles, the sweet richness of the liver encased in soft, truffle-flavored eggs is wholly satisfying. Served with a baguette and a simple green salad, the omelet is just as suited for a lonely night in as it is for dinner party.
"The one detail that I never compromise on is the quality of the liver"
Over the years I've made this omelet in many kitchens, using whatever is on hand at the moment. If I'm at home, I'll slip in a nub of fat from my duck confit or chop up a few confited gizzards to keep the livers company. In friends' houses, I've substituted red wine for sherry, button mushrooms for chanterelles, and regular butter for the European goods. The one detail that I never compromise on is the quality of the liver (and whenever possible, that of the eggs). Truffle oil is also a must; happily, a vial of the stuff is easily transportable, even in airports so long as it comes in a travel-size bottle.
A good liver omelet is an exercise, as I can count, in at least four fundamental skills in French cookery: on sautéing mushrooms, deglazing the pan after browning, reducing the pan juices with alcohol, and of course, on properly cooking eggs. If, upon serving ,you manage to achieve all four, reward yourself with an additional, liberal sprinkling of truffle oil on top.
Chicken Liver Omelet with Truffle Oil
- 2 chicken livers
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large fresh chanterelles, chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt to taste
- 3 tablespoons sherry
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon truffle oil, or to taste
Soak the livers in the milk for at least 30 minutes, preferably a few hours.
Drain the livers, discarding the milk. Remove any tough connective tissues with scissors or a small knife. Briefly rinse the livers under cold water; pat dry with paper towels. Slice each liver into 2 or 3 sections, approximately 1 inch in length.
In a shallow skillet, heat one tablespoon of butter; when the butter foam begins to ebb, add the mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms around the pan briefly; sauté for a few minutes until brown. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the garlic and stir to mix. Season to taste with salt and remove from the heat, placing the mushrooms in a bowl.
Heat another tablespoon of the butter in the same skillet until very hot but not smoking. Add all of the sections of liver and sauté, stirring occasionally until the surface of the liver is browned but the interior is still pink, about 1 minute. Quickly remove from the heat and place in the bowl with the mushrooms.
Add the sherry and water to the pan. Deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon, scraping up the bits of liver that are stuck to the pan. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce by half. Pour the liquid over the livers and mushrooms and set aside.
Just before serving, beat the eggs briefly. Add the truffle oil and grate the nutmeg over the bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the liver and mushrooms to the bowl.
Heat a medium-sized, heavy skillet over high heat. Add a tablespoon of butter, swirling the pan to distribute the butter. Pour in the egg mixture and shake the skillet back and forth. Cook for one to two minutes, shaking occasionally to prevent sticking. The bottom of the eggs should be lightly browned, but the top should be barely set. Remove from the heat.
If desired, quickly scatter another nub of butter on top of the eggs. Fold the omelets in half and slip onto a warm plate. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.