Like most people, we have differing views on offal. Some eat it, others will not even consider it. Some give exception only to fois gras, others define it as liver by another name. Some will be very selective and partake of a few, and squeal in disdain that others will eat the rest. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The term “offal” is British in usage, and refers to variety meats that are not categorized in the conventional cuts. These include organs, entrails and extremities and are used both in cooking and in sausage making. This category includes brains,, cheeks, intestines (chitterlings), stomach (tripe) feet (trotter), ankles, tail, testicles, lungs (lights), liver,bone marrow, spleen (melt), thymus and pancreas (sweetbreads), tongues, ears and snout.
While the Chef will taste everything, he does not fancy all offal. It’s the Jamaican Rastaman in him. He makes exceptions for fois gras and oxtail, the latter being his favourite home-cooked dish but this one was not going to fly. Funny enough, when I picked up the chicken livers in the supermarket saying I wanted to test and blog different recipe for other than the traditional Jamaican route, he suggested this. Even so, I knew better than to force him to eat it. He will be gracious in other people’s homes, but in his, he knows he is king. So this dish was a solo dish cooked on one of those days when I wanted an unconventional solo treat free from his turned up nose.
I adapted, fusing the original Malaysian recipe by Charmaine Solomon, in “The Complete Asian Cookbook.” with Jamaican flavours. No matter how I cook it, chicken livers remind me of my childhood because liver, chicken, rice and mac and cheese were the few things my mother had no problems feeding me. In fact, I would often ask for them! It seemed perfect to set the scene in a warm tropical setting reminiscent of both the lush Asia and Jamaica. Paired with Roasted Ripe Plantains and Balsamic & Allspice Pickled Beets, you are really in for a gastronomic treat!
Spiced braised chicken livers
500g chicken livers
3 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 slice scotch bonnet/habanero pepper (without seeds)
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger(substitute with ginger paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt ground black pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 stalk sliced green onions
Some prefer to slice and trim the livers, but I really do not like handling it in the raw state so I bypassed that step. Saute onions, garlic, ginger, spices over medium heat until translucent and on the brink of caramelization. Add chicken livers and stir frequently. Add soy sauce and water and cover and let simmer on low heat for about 7 minutes just until the liver is no longer pink inside. Be careful not to overcook because it will get tough and dry. Serve hot. Serves 3.
ROASTED RIPE PLANTAINS
3 small ripe plantains (1 per person)
Stick one or two shallow holes with a knife through the skin into each un-peeled plantain. Wrap each in foil paper and place in oven for about 30 minutes at 140C. When cooked, the knife will pierce easily. Carefully open foil and allow steam to escape. Peel the plantain. If you do not know how, see tutorial here. Slice in three and serve hot. Plate with Balsamic & Allspice Pickled Beets and Chicken Livers and eat all three together for a salty, sweet, and sour combination that will make you sing!