Here’s a good old-fashioned Southern recipe. Once upon a time, my favorite menu item to order when dining at a Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen fast food restaurant was “Fried Chicken Livers.” The chicken livers were tender, crispy and seasoned with just the right amount of Cajun seasonings. Typically, we’d get the chicken livers when traveling and needed a quick, drive-by window meal. Alas, this southern delicacy has quietly disappeared from Popeye’s menus. And perhaps that is a good thing, as these chicken livers were loaded with salt and fat from the frying. But, I love chcken livers and have set out to make a somewhat healtier version at home. I’m following a recipe which I am trying hard to recollect from my food service days; those chicken livers were delicious. The flavors of garlic, bacon and mushrooms complimented the crispy chicken livers perfectly.
My recipe for “Pan-Fried Chicken Livers with Bacon, Garlic and Mushrooms” dates back to my hospital food service days. We provided the meals and food service for a nursing home which was located adjacent to the hospital. To meet the dietary requirements of the elderly residents, we served some sort of liver entree each week. And so, I learned to like liver! I especially enjoyed three favorite recipes: pan-sauteed calf’s liver with grits, soy sauce stir-fried calf’s liver and pan fried (or oven baked) chicken livers. I’ll never know why — but the chicken livers were always cooked with mushrooms, bacon and lots of garlic. Yes, we’re in Louisiana.
Liver is packed with essential nutrients. Liver is rich in protein, iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, riboflavin, folic acid, copper and choline. Plus, chicken liver (if not fried) is not that high in calories. The iron in chicken livers is especially well absorbed in a person’s digestive track — since it comes from an animal source — compared to the iron which may be used to enrich grain products. Yes, we had to meet the nutritional needs of the residents — and they actually like these dishes, too! The downside of liver (both beef and chicken liver) is that it is very high in cholestrol. So, eat liver in moderation. However, it you have iron-deficiency anemia, liver is a great way to get a boost of this nutrient.
My recipe for chicken livers is pan-fried rather than deep-fried. The chicken livers are relatively small and they cook quickly. It is much simplier to control the cooking process when they are pan-fried. (I actually recall that the chicken livers served in our food service were baked–but then they were not crispy!) In my recipe, the chicken livers are breaded, then fried. And the breading sticks to the chicken livers! For serving, they are tossed with bacon, mushrooms and garlic. Here’s what I did.
First get everything ready — slice or chop up the bacon, mince the garlic and drain the canned, sliced mushrooms. Fry bacon pieces until crispy, drain off the bacon pieces and fat and reserve both. Stir fry the mushrooms and garlic for a few minutes. Set this aside while cooking the chicken livers.
Meanwhile, I let the chicken livers set in milk for a few minutes to absorb out extra blood and bitterness. After draining the livers, I was ready to go to my breading “station.” Get everything lined up. Dip in seasoned flour (seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and a pinch of salt and pepper). Then dip in egg wash and back to the seasoned flour again (in another plate). Let the breaded chicklen livers set on a wax paper-lined plate while the reserved bacon grease (and/or vegetable oil) heats. I used a small cast iron skillet and just enough bacon grease/oil to coat the bottom of the frying pan. Fry small batches of the chicken livers on each side until crispy and cooked — about 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Transfer to a platter and place the bacon, garlic and mushrooms around. I garnished with fresh parsley. One pound of chicken livers serves four people. If the larger livers are sliced into halves, this makes a great appetizer dish for a buffet or party.
This old-fashioned Southern recipe for chicken livers is delicious. Even though chicken livers are no longer available on most fast food menus, it is easy to prepare this dish at home. Plus, chicken livers are inexpensive and quite nutritious. Get a healthy, iron-rich fix! Enjoy.
Pan Fried Chicken Livers with Bacon, Garlic and Mushrooms
- 1 lb chicken livers
- 1/3 cup milk
- 3 thin slices of bacon, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (7-oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch black pepper
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup water
- vegetable oil, such as canola oil, as needed (up to 1/4 cup)
- fresh parsley, garnish (optional)
Method and Steps:
- Rinse, trim and drain chicken livers, Cut large chicken livers in half. Add chicken livers to bowl along with milk. Let soak for 15 minutes up up to half an hour.
- Meanwhile, prep ingredients: slice bacon, mince garlic and drain canned mushrooms.
- Add bacon to a small, heavy cast iron skillet. Cook bacon over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until crispy on all sides. Use slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Set aside. Drain bacon grease and reserve.
- Add the minced garlic and mushrooms to the cast iron skillet. Stir and cook for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out cast iron skillet.
- Set up breading stations: mix all-purpose flour with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper. Divide into two plates — put about 1/3 of the flour mix into one plate (or bowl) and the reminder 2/3 thirds flour mix onto a second plate.
- In another small bowl, beat the egg with water until combined.
- Line a plate with waxed paper and a line another plate with paper towels.
- To bread livers, first drain a few chicken livers at a time from the milk. Coat with flour mix in first plate (or bowl). Then dip in egg wash. Finally toss in second plate containing the larger amount of flour mix. If needed use spoon to toss and coat all sides with flour. Transfer to plate lined with waxed paper. Continue to coat a few livers at a time until all are coated an placed on wax paper. Let chicken livers set on the plate while the frying grease/oil heats.
- To fry the chicken livers, add enough bacon grease to coat the bottom of the cast iron skillet. Heat to medium-high heat. The grease should shimmer but not smoke. Add enough livers to cover a single layer of the cast iron skillet. Do not crowd. Adjust heat as needed and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, carefully turning over half way through. When cooked through and no longer pink, transfer with slotted spoon to plate lined with paper towels .Replenish cast iron skillet with bacon grease. If bacon grease runs out, use vegetable oil (such as canola oil) for frying. Continue to fry batches of chicken livers until all are cooked.
- Transfer to serving platter, spread reserved sautéed bacon, mushrooms and garlic around.
- If desired, garnish with fresh parsley.