This recipe moves me from eating chicken liver because I should to eating it because it’s awesome. I’m not the only one. My oldest son asked for these for his birthday this past year.
It’s inspired by the Azadura con Salsa Verde (innards in green sauce) recipe in Authentic Mexican Cooking by Rick Bayless. I confess that I love it so much I left a sort of love letter of appreciation at one of his restaurants last year, hoping that it might find him.
As best I can recall, I’ll share the details of my appreciation here.
The love letter: authentic food
First, I appreciate cookbooks like Authentic Mexican Cooking that include a few organ meat recipes or variations like they are just part of all food we eat. The whole animal should be acknowledged and respected.
I confess that when I pick up a cookbook, I’ve made a habit of checking first for any organ meat recipes. If so, I’ll move to cooking oils, looking for butter or lard. If yes to both criteria, then the cookbook probably meets my “grandma” genre requirements. I can’t vouch for his other cookbooks, but Authentic Mexican Cooking fits the bill.
Second, the cookbook works. I’ve learned so much from reading the details in this book. And it does feel like authentic food to me, like the way my grandparents used to cook. The tomatillo salsa in the original recipe includes searing the tomatillo, chili, onion, garlic, and cilantro puree in lard and then adding broth and cooking it down. Music to my ears. And it all tastes so good!
The love letter: inspiration
Third, as I recall from an interview I heard years ago, Rick Bayless has an anthropological background. He spent his time in Mexico learning about the culture and society through the food. I love this.
I now dream of having spent my Fulbright year doing something along those lines in Portugal. Maybe I’d compare regional differences between my grandfather’s hometown on ‘the continent’ (as they say) and my grandmother’s on the island of Madiera. Maybe I can do that when I grow up.
Finally, a few years back, we went to see Cascabel, a play that he had created. It was a story of love and food and he himself was the chef in the play. I found the whole thing to be playful, delicious, and entertaining.
What if we could all turn up the volume on the inside, letting our dreams guide us through our everyday? As my friend Carrie says, “as big, as simple, as silly or as unrealistic as you might think [those dreams] are!” After that play, it felt like he was living this way. And so now, in my mind, his name is associated with a little bit of inspiration.
Conversion to a weeknight dish
Here, though, we’ve made this into more of a weeknight dish. Instead of taking the extra time for the tomatillo salsa, we just chop up a few fresh ingredients to make pico de gallo. You can also get this outside for expediency, or use any salsa you prefer.
As I learned in Authentic Mexican Cooking, steaming the tortillas in a steamer basket wrapped in a towel will make them warm and pliable before serving. I make them from scratch (recipe in the same book), since I like to know exactly what is in them. If you get them from the store and your budget allows, buy ‘organic’ since 88 percent of all corn in the US is now GMO.
If you are new to chicken liver and aren’t yet fully convinced you’d like it, this is a great place to start. Two pieces of advice:
- Don’t overcook the liver. A little pink in the middle will leave a milder flavor than liver that is well-cooked.
- Use the salsa or hot sauce of your choice, in generous quantities.
Feel free to add to the garnishes. We like chopped cilantro, radish, avocado, lettuce… whatever we have handy. Another alternative is to make your garnishes into a side salad and keep the taco simple. Finally, we like to include a serving of black beans, slow-cooked with a meaty bone, on the side. Enjoy!