Liver. What a polarizing food. A lot of people hate it. But there are those of us who love it–me, Hannibal Lecter, Eugene Victor Tooms. Ah, speaking of Eugene Victor Tooms, everyone’s favorite liver-eating, bile-spewing, X-File, this just happened:
You probably thought actor Doug Hutchison was pretty creepy on the X-Files when he portrayed a semi-immortal man who eats human livers.
Now, the 51-year-old character actor is marrying former Miss Washington Teen USA contestant Courtney Alexis Stodden. She’s 16 years old — and an aspiring country singer.
Publicity stunt? Maybe. But E Online reports the couple released a statement saying they’re “very much in love and want to get the message out there that true love can be ageless.”
Uh. Gross. Maybe not as gross as a guy who makes paper mache nests out of newspaper and his own spit, but definitely icky.
Anyway, liver. It’s not for the squeamish, but I like knuckle food–tripe, sweetbreads, pig ears, chicken feet–so I wasn’t put off by it. I like chicken livers and especially love chicken liver pate (I also think foie gras is divine and I know that makes me a horrible person). So without further ado, here it is, Dinner #72, Chicken Livers in Sherry.
As if liver (IN a RICE RING!) wasn’t enough, #72 matched it up with an aspic. Tomato Aspic to be exact. If you don’t know what an aspic is, it’s (courtesy of thefreedictionary.com) a clear jelly typically made of stock and gelatin and used as a glaze or garnish or to make a mold of meat, fish, or vegetables.
So in essence it is a meat and/or vegetable Jell-O mold. Ha! And you were freaked out by the fruit ones, am I right? Tomato Jell-O! Hooray!
For this walk on the weird side, I utilized a recipe from my old standby The Joy of Cooking. There was another version of the aspic recipe that required cooking tomatoes and straining them, blah blah blah. I’m a busy lady so I opted for the version that used plain ol’ ordinary concentrated tomato juice.
The recipe reads that lemon juice is a ‘good’ seasoning. I opted to use sugar-free lemon Jell-O in lieu of plain gelatin and I added some garlic salt and pepper to it. I was wary of putting basil in it since it would be served with avocado. Avocado and basil don’t mix in my mind. What do you think?
Anyway I mixed everything together and put it in the pan. At this point I was very skeptical that the aspic would set–the concentrated tomato juice seemed way to thick for the gelatin to bind it. The recipe called for 2 tbsp of gelatin and the packet of sugar-free Lemon Jell-O looked to be more in the 1 to 1.5 tbsp range. I thought that it might not have been enough to congeal the juice. Well, into the refrigerator it went to to chill overnight (I did this step the day before).
I will come back to the tomato aspic later.
5:30pm I began with the honeydew and bust out my melon baller (its debut!). I also cut the lemons and cleaned the lettuce. They were in the fridge by 5:50 (I don’t have a photo of the melon salad for some reason. Just imagine green balls with lemon slices in a wooden bowl shaped like a pineapple).
6:00pm I put the rice into the microwave to cook. I am a big fan of using the microwave to cook rice. I think it’s 1 cup rice to 1.5 cup water. At 100% power for 5 minutes and then 20 minutes at 50% power. I used Jasmine rice because I bought a mega-bag of it earlier this year and I refuse to buy anymore rice until I finish the bag that I have. I will not have to buy rice for many more months.
So while the rice nuked for my rice ring I went on to clean the chicken livers.
Although I’ve eaten liver multiple times this is the first instance that I had cooked it myself. Liver is odd. And this is the one thing that I really took away from #72–chicken livers are big! I mean, in relation to the size of their bodies and all. Is that the way it is in most animals? Are calves livers that big (I’ve just seen what a restaurant has served me). Are people livers that big? Is my liver that big? (only Hannibal Lecter and Tooms know for sure).
This was quite an undertaking–the preparation of the livers. I had to drain the livers, rinse them, and then attempt to remove the black parts and the ‘filament’ as DiS! calls it. Why was this difficult?
- Chicken livers are slippery little fuckers.
- There is a lot of ‘filament’ in those things.
- Although there wasn’t any green, I had a hard time determining what DiS! would deem ‘black’ and what was just normal blood-clotty things.
- I ended up getting chicken juice/blood all over the place. My kitchen counter and sink became ground zero for salmonella poisoning.
It took me almost 25 minutes to just clean the damn things and ready them for cooking.
6:22pm I chopped the onion and was ready to saute. One problem. My electric skillet was waaaay up on the top of the cabinets and I was all the way down on the kitchen floor being short and all, and Cleve wasn’t home to reach up and get it for me. But then the microwave dinged so I went about assembling the rice ring.
I consulted The Joy of Cooking for this part as well. Per one of St. Irma’s suggestions, I added some chopped blanched slivered almonds (yeah, almonds!) and a dash of nutmeg to the rice. I shoved the rice (I think I got about 3 cups of rice) into the 7-inch ring mold (liberally sprayed with Pam) and then I poured 1/4 cup melted light butter into it.
At 6:35pm I set aside the assembled ring. I wanted to cook the livers, damn it! So like I have done every time I’ve blown a fuse, I climbed up the kitchen counter and brought it down myself, piece by piece. I plugged it in and got it warm and ready.
6:45pm In the middle of cooking my onion, I blow a fuse.
I have a feeling that blown fuses are my new shitty oven. Oh, by the way, I did preheat the oven to 350 at this point.
7:05pm I have browned the liver on all sides, removed them from the skillet and made the sauce with the sherry, can of gravy, and tomato paste. I put the lid on and set the electric skillet to “WARM.”
7:15pm The rice ring, in a hot water bath, entered the oven and I put on water to steam the carrots and celery.
7:26pm I put the carrot and celery into my makeshift steamer, turned up the heat on the skillet and added the mushrooms, cooked livers, and chopped parsley to the sherry sauce. I Mixed them and let them warm up in the skillet.
7:35pm The ring is out of the oven! I let it sit for a bit and brought out the aspic. I am happy to say that it did indeed set! I then plated said tomato aspic and garnished it with lettuce and sliced avocados.
7:40pm Flipped the rice ring out of the mold and onto a platter, filled the center of the ring with the sherried chicken livers, put out the salad, threw on some parsley, and took photos.
7:45pm DINNER IS SERVED!
I kinda impressed myself with this one. It’s pretty! And looks a lot like the original #72.
Rice! In a shape! The rice ring actually worked! It even has the ripple of the original mold. I think I want to serve all future rice dishes out of molds. And if you look closely at the photo you can see the slices of almonds in there. Because I used the Jasmine rice and included the almonds and the nutmeg this definitely had a Indian/Pakistani vibe to it (and then to put meat in a thick sauce with it to boot!). I think that if a bit of garam masala and some golden raisins were added to this, you’d end up with a really, really, nice base for a Biryani. It wasn’t the best flavor match to the liver and sherry, but oh well. It came out in a ring!
The liver was good. Very similar to a chicken Marsala to be quite honest–with the sherry and the mushrooms. The only big difference was the texture–you know how cooked liver has an almost spongy texture to it. I think that this was a solid showing considering I had never worked with that protein before. Cleve thought it was fine for liver (not really his bag). The leftovers heated up nicely the next day for dinner.
Now, the tomato aspic…*sigh*. Never having tried Tomato Aspic I don’t know if this was on par with others or was a FAIL. But it did set. There it is, not sliding at all from the pan. And it’s a lovely color, is it not? The aspic looked really cool because it was opaque, unlike typical Jell-O.
But how did it taste?
It tasted like ketchup. Really, really, really thick ketchup. Ketchup Jell-O. Heinz pudding. In squares. It was just odd. Maybe if I had used a tomato juice NOT from concentrate it would’ve been a bit thinner and more like a traditional, translucent Jell-O. Maybe if I had used non-flavored gelatin instead of lemon and just added fresh lemon juice it wouldn’t have been as sweet. But as I made it–I have to say it was a fail. And the garnishes just didn’t make sense. The mushy texture of the avocado with the thick squish of the aspic. Blarg. Maybe if there had been a dressing with it the dish would’ve resembled more of a salad…? I don’t know.
But I made an aspic and lived to tell the tale. Honestly, after looking at some of St. Irma’s other aspics, I’m tempted to make some of them just for shits and giggles. Floating asparagus? Levitating olives? Ham suspended in gelatin? That’s something that needs to be seen to be believed. And I want to believe.
Recipe from Dinner is Served 1972 Marjon Promotions, Inc.