Recipe: Chicken Liver Salad with Haricots Verts and Gentle Herbs
Here’s a different Easter dinner, with an asparagus soup, a chicken liver salad, and strawberries with ricotta and orange flower water.
Why? Easter means eggs means rebirth. Where there are eggs, there will be chickens. Where there are chickens, there will be slaughtered chickens. Where you have slaughtered chickens, you will have chicken livers, which are an extremely delicious but often overlooked food. I get cravings for chicken livers (maybe I’m part vampiress). I love them in pasta, but my all-time favorite preparation is to quick sear them in butter, add a splash of cognac, and toss them, hot and still pink in the center, over a cool salad. A spring salad with them will include what’s just poking up from the earth—mint, chervil, chives, watercress, baby lettuces of all varieties, maybe a few young radishes, unformed garlic, maybe sugar snap peas or string beans, tiny leeks. Whatever I find that looks pretty, I’ll toss together. Fluidity, spontaneity, and peace of mind, even if that’s not a description of my current mental state. I will try to bring these qualities to my springtime cooking. Rebirth.
This salad, with its fragrant chicken livers, tarragon, and chives, will be the centerpiece of my Easter dinner. But I’m starting off my meal with an asparagus soup, the one here, a purée, topped with a basil and almond pesto. It’s from an older post, but it seems a good match. I think an Italian rosato wine will be nice with both the soup and the salad. And to end my Easter dinner, I’m going not with a classic pastiera, which I love and have already eaten huge amounts of, pre-Easter, but instead with strawberries topped with a dollop of sweetened ricotta. I like adding a few scrapings of nutmeg and drops of orange flower water to the ricotta, along with sugar. I thin it out with a bit of milk, and give it a quick whirl in the food processor.
My menu is definitely not traditional in any culture, but this particular Easter, which will be sunny but a tad nippy, the flavors and the streamlined simplicity of these dishes are speaking to me (no, I’m not on a diet). If they speak to you, too, why not give them a try.
Have a great Easter.
Chicken Liver Salad with Haricots Verts and Gentle Herbs
A handful of haricots verts, trimmed, briefly blanched, dropped into cold water, then drained
About 2 cups young spring greens (watercress, baby arugula, red or green soft leaf lettuces, whatever looks best to you)
2 French breakfast radishes, sliced into thin rounds
8 sprigs tarragon, stemmed
A palmful of flat-leaf parsley leaves
A few baby scallions, sliced
1 stalk young garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon Spanish Sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
A big pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon crème fraiche
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¾ pounds organic chicken livers, trimmed and cut in two or three
A splash of cognac or brandy
A few chives, cut into ½-inch lengths
Choose a nice looking salad bowl (white porcelain, I’m thinking, to hold greens and browns). Add all the greens, the haricots verts, radishes, tarragon, parsley, scallions, and young garlic.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, crème fraiche, and about 1½ tablespoons of olive oil (use a really nice one). Add a little more vinegar or olive to taste, but don’t go nuts with the vinegar.
Get a skillet hot over high heat. Add the butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Dry off the livers, and season them with salt and black pepper. Put them in the skillet, spreading them out. Sear them quickly, until browned well on one side, about a minute (be careful, as they can spit and pop). Now turn them over and brown the other side, about a minute more. You want them to stay pink at the center. Add a splash of cognac, and watch it flame up.
Toss the greens with the dressing, and then add the chicken livers. Garnish with chives. Serve right away.