Chicken Livers with Passion Fruit, Pomegranate and Caramelized Dumpling Squash

Chicken Livers with Passionfruit-1

Winter is coming, and no matter what WHO says about meat, dammit, all of us need an occasional treat to balance the scales with life’s tricks.  Herewith Chicken Livers with Passion Fruit, Pomegranate and Caramelized Dumpling Squash, exactly the kind of meal that Jody and I cook up at home when things have been crazy and we need to remind ourselves to slow down and savor what’s in front of us.  In the last month we’ve been to Haiti, where Jody cooked and taught up a storm and I photographed it all and much besides.  Right before our departure, one of Jody’s cooks fell and broke her ankle, which will keep her out of the kitchen for several months.  Since out return Jody’s been picking up the the slack (note the state of Jody’s hands in the photos), while I’ve been processing photos for all of the institutions we visited.  When we lift our noses from the grindstone, this is what we eat.

Chicken livers are a bargain – the passion fruit in this recipe will probably cost about the same as the livers themselves.  Nevertheless, in our fat and cholesterol conscious age chicken livers are less and less available.  I’m surprised at how many people I now encounter who have never eaten liver of any kind.  (Bruschetta with sautéed rabbit or duck livers are one of life’s great culinary treats, but that’s a different post.)  People who seek out artisanal (read fat-marbled) pork, avoid liver.  Why?  I don’t get it.  Cautions about eating organ meats have morphed in many people’s minds into an outright prohibition against eating them at all.  Jody and I treat ourselves to chicken livers four or five times a year, and sweetbreads about half as often, which works out to about one indulgence a month.  My cholesterol levels live on the first floor and Jody’s are in the basement, and we eat well.   You can have your cake, er, liver, and eat it too, just not every day.

If the sight of pink in your meat causes you to shudder, then stop reading her.  Chicken livers are best if not cooked past medium, lest they lose their silky texture and start to become rubbery.  At their most basic,  a simple sauté in butter or olive oil with some shallots and thyme or finely chopped garlic will provide you with a feast for short money and almost no effort except cleaning the livers themselves.  A sharp paring knife makes quick work of removing the fat and sinew joining the lobes of each pair of livers.  Tart autumnal fruit – pomegranate, passion fruit, blood oranges, cranberries, lingonberries – can really step up the dish.  There’s something about the combination of acid and unctuousness that can’t be beat.  Think of pickled mustard fruits with paté or tart fruit coulis often served with fois gras.  On a different note, hazelnuts (dukkah!) are also a fine compliment.

Jody’s technique for juicing passion fruit was new to me, and easy, which was a good thing because we ended preferring the tartness of two passionfruit – rather than the single one shown in the ingredients photograph.  If you’re one of those people who thought chicken livers were too evil to enjoy, or you wondered what to do with those shriveled purple orbs in the exotic produce section, this is your time to shine.  Short people in costumes ringing your doorbell shouldn’t get be the only ones to get a treat.  Enjoy.  Ken

Note: In Haiti Jody worked with cooks in various Partners in Health-affliated sites: Zanmi Beni, a Porte au Prince orphanage, at HUM (Hôpital Universitaire de Mirebalais) and at the Zanmi Lasante (Partners in Health) campus in Cange, in Haiti’s Central Plateau.   Here’s a shot of Jody with the cooks at HUM.  The rectangular dish with red and white in the front is pikliz.  Francois, the chef standing behind Jody, was very insistent on everyone wearing hats.  For the record, Jody takes her hat off when she goes to bed.

HUM Kizin-long-5682

Chicken Livers with Passion Fruit,

Pomegranate and Caramelized Dumpling Squash

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dumpling squash
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice–about 2 passion fruit
  • ½ teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 12 sage leaves
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced–about 6 ounces
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced cherry or jalapeño pepper
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. Scrub the squash clean.  Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, cut the squash into 1-inch wedges.
  2. Season the squash with salt and pepper.  Heat 1½ tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  When the butter starts to foam, add the squash, cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Flip the squash over, do not cover, and cook until the squash are tender and the second side is golden brown, another 10 minutes or so.  Increase the heat a little if the squash is tender but not brown.  Just before removing from the pan, add half the honey, passion fruit juice and thyme and toss.   Transfer to a plate.
  3. Meanwhile, clean the livers of sinew, fat and any green stuff (see my note below).
  4. Pat dry with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.  When the butter starts to foam, add the sage leaves and cook until crisp.  Keep an eye on the heat – if the pan gets too hot the butter will burn.  Drain the sage leaves on a paper towel.
  6. Add the livers and cook on one side until brown, about 3 minutes.  Flip and cook on the second another 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.  The cooking time is dependent on the size of the livers and the doneness that you like.
  7. Add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Remove the lid, add the garlic and pepper and cook until the shallots just start to caramelize, about 3 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Add the the remaining honey, passion fruit juice and thyme.   Swirl around. Return the livers to the pan to heat through.
  8. Put a couple of wedges of squash on a warm plate.  Arrange the livers around the squash and then spoon the shallot mixture over the livers.  Garnish with sage leaves and pomegranate seeds.

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Jody Notes:

Very rarely you may find a chicken liver with a green patch or even a green oblong organ attached.  This is the gall bladder.  Just cut it away, without rupturing it – the liver will be fine.  If the gall bladder is ruptured it releases bile, which taints nearby flesh green.  It also has a very bitter flavor, so cut away any green tissue.  The rest of the liver will be fine.  

During our week in Haiti I was cooking with the culinary teams at three Partners In Health sites.  I discovered many things, and one of my favorites was using passion fruit in savory ways. The cooks were surprised and delighted to see me use passion fruit in a tomato sauce  – they only use passion fruit for juice.

When I was shopping/brainstorming for this post, I first bought a pomegranate – great acid and a high wow factor with those beautiful seeds.   Then my gaze landed on a basket of wrinkly passion fruit and I decided to give them a try as well.  They don’t have the beautiful seeds of a pomegranate, but man are they delicious.  I couldn’t resist using both.  

 

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31 thoughts

  1. Yes Yes Yes
    I call it Beggars Foie Gras
    Thank you so much
    And added to Bolognese sauce is the an authentic way to finish.
    So says Mario!
    Hard to find fresh ones!
    My chicken liver Pate is a combo of calves liver roasted and chicken liver sautéed in chicken fat and onions!
    I think it’s a good sub for bacon💝

    • Good name! The bit about adding livers to Bolognese is spot on. They are harder to find now than if times past – we tried 3 supermarkets in Brookline before we got them. But well worth the effort. Thanks! Ken

  2. A most beautiful and appetizing post from both of you! Klausbernd loves liver so we have decided to get some from the local butcher for the weekend.
    Interesting; what you call squash is a kind of pumpkin here, recommended to be peeled. I find peeling the pumpkin the hardest work, so to cut it like this looks very delicious. :-) Do you roast the seeds?
    Have a wonderful weekend!
    Dina, Klausbernd and Siri & Selma

    • Dina and company! How are things up north? I think you’ll enjoy these. Both squash and pumpkin belong to the same family (curcurbitaceae), but what North Americans call “winter squash” (and dumpling squash are one of these) Europeans call pumpkins. On this side of the Atlantic pumpkin is a term almost exclusively reserved for the orange, ribbed item–large or small–carved into Halloween jack o’ lanterns or made into pies. People are of two minds about the skin of winter squash – some eat it, some don’t. I usually do, finding it more bother to remove it than not. For another easy take on an unpeeled winter squash, you might try Roasted Squash with Sage Pesto (https://thegarumfactory.net/2011/10/07/riders-of-the-lonesome-sage-roasted-squash-with-sage-pesto/). We do sometimes roast the seeds, but only if there are enough of them to make it worthwhile. Thanks for commenting. Ken

  3. This is fantastic! I grew up eating chicken liver and have only cooked it once in my life. My teenage son is very adventurous and kept asking me to prepare it for him. I wish I would have had this recipe for his first liver experience. I love the way the squash is prepared here and crispy fried sage leaves are to die for, in my opinion… Beautiful post Ken and Jody!

    • They’re not difficult to cook, but given their texture it is reassuring to cook them the first time with someone who knows what they’re doing. That said, I just plunged ahead my first time (butter, thyme, shallots) and was delighted with the result, especially since I didn’t have much money. Give this a shot – I think you’ll like it. Ken

  4. I adore passionfruit. Impossible to find or grow out here on the plains. Your life is wonderfully diverse and interesting. I love the shot of all the cooks with your lovely wife.. we have Bags! of my own pasture raised chicken livers in the freezer. Just waiting for this recipe (and some pate making!) c

    • I’d be willing to bet your chicken livers are delicious. What a resource for a grill! (Or for paté, which is as deadly a threat to me sitting in the fridge as good ice cream.) Passion fruit only grows in baskets found in Whole Foods here, unlike in Haiti, where it’s so common in markets people can buy a bunch and just juice them (yum!). We’re fortunate in being able to travel, for Jody to share her expertise and me to share photos with the organizations we visit. Jody has been going to Haiti since the earthquake and the opportunity to interact with ordinary people goes a long way to breaking through the sense of abstraction that can separate us from those whose lives are filled with much more struggle. Ken

    • I agree – grilled chicken livers are great! Regarding raw liver sashimi, I once would have said, “Never!” but after having consumed a fair amount of raw duck and goose liver during a trip to the Languedoc last year, I’m not ruling anything out now. I AM curious how the Japanese versions compare to the French ones. I’m not a big fan of beef liver, despite it making regular appearances on our family table when I was a kid. It was cooked to death and tasted VERY strong to me. As an adult, I’ve soaked it in milk before cooking, which removes the blood and makes for a milder flavor, but it seems like a lot of work when calves liver, delicious without soaking, purging, etc, is also available. I wonder whether the Japanese liver sashimi was really from calves rather than beef liver. Thanks for the info. Ken

      • I wonder if this will show correctly.

        The picture on right shows two kinds of liver, one is calf/veal and the other beef. I remember calf liver was easier to chew and probably milder and I think the three pieces on right are of calf and the rest beef but I could be wrong. These are from 2010. The first picture on left is beef tongue I think. The middle picture is horse steak – very tasty.

    • Okay, Ayako, you’ve pushed me right to edge of the cliff of my comfort zone. And here I thought I was being brave this past week by trying stinky tofu! The picture in the upper left looks like horse to me, which I’ve enjoyed a lot (cooked) as steak, hamburger and tiny meatballs and as a flavoring for Puglian tomato sauce for pasta. The sliced items in the small photo look like tongue to me, which I’ve quite liked braised. What is the “chickeny” looking thing in yellow skin? The bottom left two photos I don’t understand, except as perhaps duck sauc with…? And then there’s the liver – I was afraid it was going to look like that. With you as my guide – and a nearby craft beer or saki – I’d be happy to try it, but man… really? Carpaccio and steak tartare, which aren’t seen that often anymore, are personal favorites, but this would definitely be a challenge for me. :-) Nice to know that life always keeps one in store around the corner. Ken

      • Upper left is beef tongue sashimi. I found a similar picture with caption on a different post from a different year and it says tongue. Horse sashimi is generally much darker red. You can see it here: http://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1312/A131203/13002960/

        The middle left picture is of vegetables and probably “mochi” (rice cake) wrapped in a thin fried tofu “bag” and tied with “kanpyo” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanpy%C5%8D_(food)) and cooked in dashi. We often get this bag in oden (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oden).

        The picture of sliced meat right in the middle is horse steak.

        Bottom left is soy sauce in one dish and sesame oil with salt in the other. They are for the liver sashimi.

        Bottom middle is I think chicken cartilage chopped up and cooked in foil with onion.

        The restaurant is a specialist in serving offal among other meats. It’s very funky.

      • At Les Amis Louis in Paris, the tongue is braised in red wine overnight: It is then rolled in herbs, sliced, and slathered with DUCK pate between Layers:
        I’m invited every year to a LIVER AND ONION party: UGH. I had Beef liver and manage to cut it into pieces and pretending they were LOGO’s hidden in he peas, potatoes, stuffed into a roll then turned upside down. However, a good chunk of Beef Liver cooked to med rare is great with the chicken livers for good ole Jewish chopped Chicken Liver.;adds a bit of a nuance to the flavor (especially when chopped by hand). Do you have a sub for the passion fruit? I had factories in Port au Prince and loved the food there (late 80’s). Thanks for helping the lovely Haitians: Such fine hard working folks….I lived in Miami at the time of the EARTHQUAKE and it was special to gather all the people to assist with money, blankets, food, water etc with Mission Planes leaving hourly.. Love you guys! XO

  5. I am with you on the liver. There is nothing as nice as fried liver (calf or sheep) with onions and a little salty bacon. My butcher friends tell me it is less and less requested. Many have never an probably will never enjoy this fantastic source of iron and flavour.

    Lovely photos and recipe as always.
    Best,
    Conor

  6. What a brilliant post, and what fine people you are… I would love to read more about the work you do in Haiti. I grew up eating liver and lamb’s brains. Because primarily they were cheap. But I didn’t know how to cook liver properly until I cooked it in Venice and fegato all Veneziana was what I had to ask of butchers and what I had to cook. I love the idea of the acidity. I would never have thought of using it here. You are marvels. Sophie

    • Sophie, how nice to hear from you! Sorry we’ve been so out of touch. Too much happening. I wish I could show you more photos of Haiti, but many of them are for clients who guard their charges privacy quite zealously. Perhaps I’ll post some of Jody working with Haitian cooks. In the meantime, hurrah for lovers of liver. We’re a vanishing breed. Fegato alla Veniziana! I first encountered a recipe for that in Clifford Wright’s A MEDITERRANEAN FEAST–it was delicious. Acidity with sautéed liver is more common in northern European countries, I think. I remember once having them with a lingonberry coulis, which was also quite acidic and quite tasty. It certainly makes sense when you think of Italians with chicken liver paté with mustard fruits. I hope sunny and dry California is treating you well. Ken

  7. Pingback: PASSION FRUIT SPONGE CUSTARD | The Garum Factory

    • You’ve never cooked chicken livers?! Now I’m apprehensive that you won’t like them. They used to be a mainstay of French cooking, with garlic or shallot butter. Unbelievably good. Just don’t overcook them. I assume you’re not somebody who likes her steaks medium-well, but if you are, skip the livers. They’re no good overcooked. Ken

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