Dandelion Greens, Chickpea Purée & Cognac Chicken Livers
Chicory, chickpeas and chicken-livers- there's 3 chicks for ya! And pretty down-to-earth and delicious ones they are too! I saw the Dandelion leaves at the market, Italian "Cicoria" and knew I had to have them! Slightly bitter, but full of flavor and healthy to boot, dandelion leaves are one of the most popular greens in Southern Italy... and I love them too!
A classic combination in Puglia, would be to serve them boiled and sautéed with garlic, with a steaming hot Polenta, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with Pecorino or Parmesan- a simple and warming Winter meal. But we all know that I can come up with something a little bit better than all that... right? You betcha I can! And this evening- I did!
First of all, the cicoria needs to be well washed as it tends to be rather sandy and also to be cut in half lengthways so as to have smaller sections of stalk and then crossways in lengths of 3-4" or so. You are asking yourselves how much work it was to lay out all of those strips of dandelion greens on the plate also, aren't you? You are thinking I was fretting and fussing over it for ages, aren't you? ... but no I wasn't. The big "secret" is to simply use a small saucepan, where they will fit snugly into. Make sure the water is well salted and boil them for 20 minutes. In the meantime, tidy up that liver!
Preparing chicken livers is easy... simply cut away any fat, connective tissue or sinews that may still be attached- you want to eat nice liver, right? Well cut away the parts that aren't nice! It's not rocket science to get liver to cook nice and tender- removing the aforementioned undesirable parts and not salting until AFTER the liver is finished are the only things you need to remember- the rest is plain sailing and the seasonings I will share with you in just a while...
Once the dandelion leaves are cooked, remove them with tongs, set them to one side and then use the light green broth to cook the chick-pea purée in. To make this single portion, I stirred together 3 tablespoons of chickpea flour with just enough water to turn it into a smooth paste, which I then poured into the broth and boiled gently for 2-3 minutes. Whilst it was gently bubbling away, I seasoned it with salt, pepper and nutmeg and made sure to keep stirring so that there was no chance of it sticking.
In the meantime, I took the liver and dipped the pieces into some white flour to give them just a very thin coat, the dropped them into a frying pan with just a little butter, at a moderate heat, for 4-5 minutes. In this time, I simply shook them a little but did not flip them over until they were nice and brown from one side.
I sprinkled the liver with finely chopped rosemary, thyme, just a hint of sage and a little oregano. Then over the liver went, and into another little frying pan went a small finely sliced onion with a pat of butter and a pinch of salt. I sizzled it away at a rather high heat for 2-3 minutes and then added a tiny splash of water- hiss!! Steam! Wonderful for getting the onion cooked more quickly! And whilst I was at it- a good glug of cognac for the liver... hiss! And what a wonderful aroma!
So now it was time to juggle! Once the water had almost evaporated away from the onion, I added a hint of honey, some salt and pepper, stirred it through and turned off the heat... the residual heat was enough to finish the onion slices off as it too evaporated away. And in the meantime, I popped the dandelion leaves back into the pan with a light touch of olive oil to warm them through, ready for serving.
The liver was now nice and tender and almost done- and at this point I also added a hint vinegar and honey, tossed it gently to let these amalgamate into a light sauce and began plating up.
First of all, I laid out the greens quickly with a pair of tongs and then stirred the creamy chickpea purée through and poured that into the middle, so that it could set slightly. The liver went on top after receiving a light sprinkle of salt (at long last!) and the golden brown and wonderfully sweet and soft onions went on top of all that... what a delicious treat! And a meal fit for a king! And also fit for you and me too! So give it a go and see how you like it- the combination is really quite delicious!