When writing about our encounters with pepper jelly in New Orleans restaurants, I mentioned eating fried rabbit livers with spicy pepper jelly from Cochon restaurant. It was by far the best bite of food I had the entire trip--totally memorable. The spiciness of the jelly cut the fattiness of the livers, a small herb salad on top added a bright note, and the toast was the perfect crunchy vessel. After Dan and I tried it, we looked at each other with our mouths full and said 'wow'. More accurately, "Mmmmargugh, woowumaugh."
The real reason I wanted to throw a Southern-themed dinner is because I wanted to try this recipe for myself, using easy-to-find chicken livers instead. Even with a few tweaks, this recipe totally lived up to our vacation memories.
At Cochon, chef Donald Link serves this as an appetizer, with about four liver-topped toasts per person. I decided to make lots of little bites and serve them on a big platter. The effect was slightly more messy, but also slightly more impressive.
The recipe calls for buttered slices of white bread that you toast in the oven. I didn't want to buy a whole loaf of bread that we wouldn't finish, so I opted for premade toasts instead. Any crackers would work for this, really. You could also buy a jar of spicy pepper jelly if you don't want to go to the trouble of making it, even though it really isn't that hard and makes great gifts.
I recommend serving this immediately so the livers don't get cold and lose their crunchy texture. Even though I made the crostini by myself while everyone was having a drink in the living room, it's the perfect recipe to recruit an extra set of hands to help you out. While one person fries up the livers, the other can make the herb salad and top the toasts with jelly. Before you know it, you'll have a plate of deliciousness on your hands.
Fried Chicken Livers with Hot Pepper Glaze
Adapted from Real Cajun by Donald Link
(Serves about 6 people as an appetizer)
1 lb. chicken livers (about 12 to 15), trimmed into bite-sized pieces Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken livers, buttermilk, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and marinate at least 1 hour or overnight in the fridge.
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
Peanut oil or lard, for frying
*4 slices white bread, crusts trimmed (or storebought crackers, optional)
*1 tablespoon melted butter (or storebought crackers, optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 mint sprigs
Leaves from 3 or 4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
3/4 cup hot pepper jelly
Heat the oil in a large, deep pot to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cut each bread slice into four equal squares, brush with butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Place flour in a shallow dish. One at a time, lift the livers out of the marinade, shaking to remove excess buttermilk, and coat in the flour, shaking off excess.
Fry the chicken livers in small batches for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown and just cooked through; transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. To serve, place the toasts (or crackers) on a platter and top each one with a dab of pepper jelly and a fried liver. Toss the mint, parsley, and onion with the oil and vinegar. Spread another dab of pepper jelly over each liver and top with some of the salad.