Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to be Tender

One of the best books I've read on food is An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler.  I have to thank Alison for mentioning it in the comments a while back.  She thought I would enjoy it, and she was correct.

(Please keep recommending these books to me!  Addy told me about Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, and I've already read it twice)

Tamar Adler has a strong core belief about food and a simply beautiful way of talking about it.  She writes about buying food she loves and cooking it rather than buying ingredients to make complicated recipes.  She says she tries to never start any meal from nothing, but rather to let every meal fall into the next like dominoes.

Her chapter on boiling water will make you want to fill every pot in your kitchen and carry it over to the stove.  I fell asleep reading the chapter entitled "How To Stride Ahead" and dreamed peacefully about roast vegetables.  Seriously.  I still remember it vividly.

She says to waste nothing.  Use the stems and greens from your vegetables to make a green pesto, throw anything else in water and make broth.  Even the heat of a cooling oven can be used to warm plates for dinner.

After butchering chickens this weekend, I turned to her chapter "How To Be Tender" for insight. I have no qualms eating meat or even meat I raised myself.  But there is a sobriety to cooking something that we've raised.  When I've witnessed the life go out of the chicken, it becomes even more crucial not to waste it.

Cleaning out the chickens, I carefully set aside the livers.  I had never eaten chicken livers before, but I have always liked foie gras pate.  After salting and refrigerating the chickens, I got to work cooking the livers.  They cooked up golden and aromatic.  Then, following the directions in An Everlasting Meal I mixed them with butter and cooked shallots and just the smallest splash of Scottish whiskey.

Here's how Tamar Adler introduces her instructions for chicken liver pate.

"As for forays into the murky, hidden, tender world beneath what we consider meat, start small.  The hearts and livers of chickens and kidneys and hearts of lambs are simple to cook and delicious.

"The livers can be salted, lightly seared in butter, then sliced and eaten on buttered toast as tentatively and inquisitively as you want." (pg 172)

I certainly understand approaching livers tentatively.  As one person told me, "I don't think I can eat organs."  But these livers, cooked up tender and velvety and whipped up with an obscene amount of butter eaten on toast with bread and butter pickles might just change your mind.

You can (and should) get the original recipe from An Everlasting Meal.  But here is how I made mine.

1/4 lb chicken livers
salt & pepper
4 tablespoons of butter
splash of whiskey (or white wine - whatever spirits you keep on hand for cooking)
1/2 shallot finely chopped
pinch of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of water
pinch of ground clove

Clean the livers of any membrane and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan.  Fry the livers until brown, turning once.  Remove from pan.  Add shallots to pan along with the whiskey and water.  Cook until the shallots are tender.   Combine cooked livers, shallots (be sure to scrape the pan to get all the cooking flavors) and remaining butter to a food processor.  Blend until smooth.

Refrigerate before eating for best consistency.  Eat on toast rounds or crackers.

1 comment:

  1. An Everlasting Meal made me think more about what I toss into the compost heap. I have read the book Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl but not the one you mentioned. One of my favorite food writers is Laurie Colwin. She used to write for Gourmet magazine. The two books of hers which I have read are Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. These are primarily articles which were previously published in the magazine. After reading each chapter you immediately want to try to make what she has written about. She also wrote a few fiction books. Unfortunately she died very young but has left a legacy of her writing to encourage those who enjoy cooking.


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