You start with liver…

Sounds kinda gross, right? While a lot of people think of liver and shudder, it is a concentrated source of many healthy minerals, predominantly iron. Chicken liver in particular has a gentler flavor than beef or calf liver, and may be used as a background ingredient for many dishes to increase rich flavors.

I have been asked by several folks for my chicken & dumplings recipe. As it seems to go hand in hand with a dirty rice recipe, I thought I might share both. These two recipes enjoy a boost from chicken liver, though it’s rarely even guessed at in the first dish. Sorry I don’t have any photos for the process or the dishes, but the family ate them all up!


Chicken & Dumplings

This is what I call a “throw down” recipe: there’s a long way and a fast way to do it. Let’s start with the long way. Notes have been added to indicate the short cuts if you prefer them.

1 lb chicken liver (other giblets are okay if they are included in the package)
1 whole chicken (substitute just thighs or breasts if you prefer)
1 large can cream of whatever soup. (mushroom, chicken or potato is preferred)
4 cans of cheap biscuits (pay attention here – CHEAP biscuits)
Salt & pepper to taste

1. In a large pot, bring the chicken livers and 2 quarts of water to boil. Let it roll for about 15 minutes and remove from heat. Drain and reserve fluid for the dirty rice.

2. Without rinsing the pot, add whole chicken and enough water to cover it. If the neck and.or any giblets are included, add them with the chicken. Bring this to a boil and allow to cook until chicken is cooked through. Drain and return fluid to the pot.

3. De-bone the chicken, removing all undesirable bits such as skin, cartilage and bone. Skin may be cut up and returned to the pot if desired. Shred or dice the chicken as desired and toss it back into the pot.

4. Using a fork, mash up and de-vein half of the chicken liver. Reserve the rest for the dirty rice. Any odd giblets (I got a two hearts and a kidney in the last batch) may be reserved for the dirty rice or used as a treat for your dog. Add the mashed liver to the pot and stir.

5. Bring the pot back to a low boil. Begin opening the biscuits and slicing them into 6 pieces. This makes a good size dumpling. The dumplings will begin to dissolve if boiled too long, so be sure to move quickly and use them all. Drop the cut biscuits one piece at a time (to keep them from clumping) into the pot. Stir often to keep the dumplings circulating and the chicken from sticking. When all the dumplings are in the pot, turn the heat off.

6. Open the can of cream of soup and dump it into a bowl. Ladle about a cup of fluid from the pot into the can, stir, then pour into the bowl. Whip the hot fluid into the soup. This helps to prepare the soup to go into the pot and ensure that it will not clump up, but disburse smoothly. Pour the soup into the pot and stir.

7. Allow the contents of the pot to rest for a few minutes and heat through before serving. We like it with non-sweet cornbread underneath and a dash or two of hot sauce on top.

8. Serve. Feeds six easily.

Variations on this recipe include using boneless, skinless meat rather than going through the de-boning process, You may also add vegetables, but it will change the basic makeup of the dish and make it just another chicken soup. You may choose to use some other form of fowl, such as turkey, or beef as the meat. both are delicious and follow the same basic procedure.


Dirty Rice

This is my take on an old Cajun classic. The use of vegetables such as onion and celery will alter the flavor, but you are more than welcome to use them if you like.

This dish takes a little layering, especially of the spices. Be sure to taste test it often to make sure that it’s not too salty, nor yet too hot for your preferences.

12 oz sausage (any kind will do)
Chicken livers reserved from the other recipe above, about 1/4#
Other giblets (if desired)
Tony Chachere’s Original Cajun Seasoning or other spices as desired
2 cups white rice (dry)
Water reserved from boiling chicken liver
1 15oz can of black beans
Olive oil

1. Cook the rice in the water reserved from boiling the chicken livers, adding whatever amount necessary for the rice. If you need to, add additional water. Reserve.

2. Mash and de-vein the chicken livers and set aside. Dice the sausage and set aside. If you plan to include any of the pre-cooked giblets, dice them and set them aside.

3. In a large skillet, spray or spread a bit of olive oil. Drop in your sausage and giblets with a few dashes of Tony Cha’s seasoning. Cover and allow to cook for a few minutes. Uncover and stir, making sure any browning that occurs is well tossed. Anything that sticks will essentially be deglazed as you continue making the dish.

4. When the sausage is cooked to your liking, add the can of black beans, fluid and all. Generously sprinkle on some of the Tony Cha’s spice blend. Stir until all ingredients are hot. Add mashed chicken liver and stir.

5. Begin folding in the rice. It should completely mix with the meat and bean mixture. Some rice clumping may occur. If needed, stir in a quarter cup of water to maintain moisture and prevent drying or scorching.Add a little more of the spice blend while folding to ensure that there is enough spice for your tastes and that is is evenly distributed.

6. Serve. You may have been beating the heathens off with a wooden spoon at this point, but now it;s time to share the goodness! If they burn their fingers or tongues, well, you tried to teach them better. Feeds four huge appetites, or 6-8 more normal ones.

These two recipes are cold weather favorites at our house. I hope you like them enough to let them find a place in your kitchen as well. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Bon appetite!

— Ann Cathey