Midwestern Rasied, Southern fed.

After a semi-traumatic (see also: dramatic) experience with innards from a chicken I bought at the Farmer’s Market last summer, I was relieved when we were told that we could have everything removed from our fifty birds at the place we took them late last fall to get butchered.

Adam grew up with a great friend, Andy, who still lives just down the street. Andy is over often and when he heard we were going to have the butcher just pitch the innards, he spoke up and told us that we had to save the livers.

… Livers?

He explained that his family, who hails from eastern Tennessee, loves fried chicken livers. We had to keep them and the next time they were in town they would cook them for us.

So, we had the butcher bag up all the livers and we froze them until early last week when Andy’s grandparents and aunt came to town.

At lunch, the day of our fried chicken liver dinner, Adam’s mom asked me if I had ever had liver in tone that made me wonder what I was getting into. Truth of the matter was no. But, I convinced myself that if it’s fried, it’s probably not going to be too bad.

I am also not a picky eater and will try almost anything, but it still didn’t stop me from Googling “Fried Chicken Livers” in the afternoon just to see what to expect.

Within the first five posts there were recipes from Saveur and Food and Wine. Turns out fried chicken livers are a southern classic and even the snazziest southern inspired restaurants were serving them. The sites even listed beers and wines that pair well with the fried livers.

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That evening, Adam and I headed over to Andy’s where we found his grandmother and dad cooking up a storm. The stove top was full of cast iron where livers were frying as well as potatoes and cornbread patties.

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Andy and his grandmother both commended us on how great the livers from our birds looked and that they were a great size. They had soaked them in salt water and then milk, much like I do with duck, to help dull the game-y flavor.

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The liver’s were dredged through flour with a bit of spices and then placed in a skillet of oil and melted butter.

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Andy’s grandmother told me to try one that she had pulled out of the skillet a few minutes earlier that were sitting on a plate lined with a paper towel.

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I understood why they had soaked the livers in milk; they had a very similar taste and texture to venison or duck. Andy said the gaminess is likely because they contain so much iron.

Chicken liver is a great source of iron and zinc, but contains quite a bit of cholesterol so they are not something that you would want to eat all the time. (Don’t worry, Doc. I balanced this meal out with a glass of red wine.)

The spread that evening was great. In addition to the livers, there was homemade cole slaw, deviled eggs, fried potatoes, corn bread, and a killer peanut butter pie.

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Adam and I so appreciated the experience because it was something we would have never done ourselves. But, we will now. What I really loved was getting a taste of an authentic southern meal and seeing another family’s traditions come to life.

Yesterday, I saw liver’s at the Farmer’s Market. Give them a try! There are tons of recipes out there and when I try them at home I think I will use this recipe from Food and Wine. The author says the soy sauce will balance the gamey taste if that’s not something your into.

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One Bird, Two Ways

This past fall, Adam and I raised fifty free range chickens for their meat, in addition to the egg laying hens.

If you knew me any time before 2011, go ahead and say it.

I know your thinking it.

Trust me. I thought it plenty of times too.

What. The. Hell.

What the hell am I doing with over fifty chickens in my backyard?

The only “chicken” in my backyard growing up was when we would play it in the pool.

Things that were in the backyard of my youth? A Jack Nicholas golf course and a large swing set… that was painted one of three colors permitted by the Home Owners Association.

I never looked into it, but chickens probably didn’t make that “permitted” list.

… Just a guess.

As insane as it does seem, it’s my reality. And, now with a freezer full of great, pasture raised chickens it all makes sense and it’s all worth it.

Don’t worry, friends… I have not totally converted. We took the birds somewhere else to get processed. They took care of everything, so our birds look just like a whole chicken I would get at the grocery store. Phew.

Adam and I have been experimenting with all sorts of recipes with these birds. This week, using one bird, we made two great and very different meals.

Because it’s only the two of us, we don’t need a whole bird for a meal so halving the chicken is a great way to insure there aren’t any left over’s. Here are the steps for dividing a whole chicken in half:

Note: I now understand why magazines, like Real Simple, walk readers through tips like these with illustrations. Photos of raw meat just don’t look that pretty. But, today, I am scraping vanity because I do think it helps seeing how it really works.

Put the chicken breast on a cutting board breast side down with the neck pointing away from you.

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First, starting from the front of the chicken, insert the knife and work it from the neck to the tail of the bird, cutting right along one side of the backbone. It is important to cut as close to the bone as you can.

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Make the same cut on the other side of the back bone and remove the spine.

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Keep the chicken breast side down and make a small slice in the skin and cartilige by the neck. Fold the chicken back and forth in order to snap the breastbone.

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Remove the “Keel” bone. This is the bone located inbetween the rib bones.

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Cut off any cartilige on the breastbone. Once removed, cut the bird in two down the middle of the breast.

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Make a small slice in the skin to tuck in the leg.

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Ta-Da... Done!

Ta-Da… Done!

With the first chicken half, we made Jerk Chicken.

We were in Jamaica the last week of Janaury and were welcomed back to the midwest by major snow storms and bitter cold. So, a couple nights ago, I picked up a six pack of Red Stripes and decided to make the quintessential Jamaican entrée.

Soaking up the sun!

Soaking up the sun!

My goal was to pretend like we were on the island, but once I put the chicken in the skillet, I didn’t have to pretend. My whole kitchen smelled like Jamaica. Yah, mon!

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1 habanero pepper, stem cut off
1 bunch scallions, but into pieces
2 cloves garlic smashed and peeled
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon allspice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons of vegetbale oil
3 ½-4 pounds chicken pieces

In a food processor, puree peppers, scallions, garlic, thyme, brown sugar, allspice, soy sauce, lime juice and oil.

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Put mixture into a large zip lock bag with the chicken pieces.

Let marinate in the refridgerator for at least one hour or up to twenty four hours.

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Grill until cooked through or sear on the stove in a skillet that can go in the oven and move into the oven for thiry minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Use oil or spray to prevent sticking before cooking.

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If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you've gotta have some Red Stripes's to wash it down!

If your going to have Jerk Chicken, you’ve gotta have some Red Stripe’s to wash it down!

And with the other half of the bird I made a soup using some of our frozen garden vegetables. This super simple, spicy soup was easy to make and, excluding the spices, came straight from the backyard!

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

Frozen garden poblano peppers and sweet corn

2 cups diced poblano peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 diced large onion
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 minced cloves of garlic
32 ounces chicken broth
5 cups cooked and shredded chicken (Adam cooked the chicken the day before and seasoned it with a handful of spices from the pantry. Salt and pepper works great. You also could use a rotisserie chicken.)
4 cups of fresh or frozen corn
Black pepper to taste
Crumbled Queso Fresco or Moterary Jack Cheese for topping (If desired)

In a large pot, saute olive oil and onions over medium heat about 5-8 minutes. Add the spices and garlic and saute for a minute.

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Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, corn and poblanos and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for thirty minutes.

Diced Poblanos

Diced Poblanos

Shredded Chicken.

Shredded Chicken.

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Serve right away. (… But, the left over’s make a great lunch!)

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