Fried Chicken Livers with Balsamic-Marinated Figs

To make someone a liver lover, you should be careful to cook the livers until crispy but not overcooked, and pair them with an acidic condiment, like these balsamic figs. This recipe calls for toasting and grinding the whole spices but please don’t let that step deter you from trying this recipe. If you have ground fennel, cumin, and coriander on hand, it’s okay to use them. 
From “Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South,” by Vivian Howard (Little Brown, 2016).

Balsamic Figs
3 cups ripe figs, stemmed and quartered
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated on a Microplane
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon picked thyme
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon honey
⅓ cup aged balsamic vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice

Fried Livers
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 cup buttermilk
1 pound chicken livers, trimmed and halved
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying

Marinate the figs: In a medium bowl, gently toss together the figs, brown sugar, ginger, salt, rosemary, thyme, and orange zest. Let this hang out at room temperature for about an hour. Some liquid will leach out and the flavors will begin to develop. After an hour, stir in the honey, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice. Let this mingle another 30 minutes at room temperature before serving. 

Prepare the livers: In an 8-inch skillet, toast the fennel, cumin, and coriander seeds over medium heat. Once you start to smell them, you’re done. Let them cool, transfer them to a spice grinder, and grind till smooth. 

Whisk those spices plus the cinnamon, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Add the livers, and let them marinate in the refrigerator a minimum of 30 minutes and up to overnight. 

Stir the flour together with the remaining salt and pepper and divide this mixture until two medium bowls. In batches, lift the livers out of the buttermilk, drain off any excess moisture, and toss them in half the flour until they are evenly coated. One by one, dip them back in buttermilk, then toss them in the remaining flour. This is messy, I know, but the double dip is going to provide a good platform for the warm spices in the buttermilk to come through as well as give you a better crunch-to-liver ratio. Separate the livers in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate up to 1 hour before you fry. 

Fry and serve: Preheat your oven to 200 degrees and set a plate lined with paper towels next to your stove to drain the livers once they come out of the oil. 

Pour the oil into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven to a depth of 1 inch. Using a thermometer for best results, heat oil to 350 degrees. Using tongs, gently lay a third of the livers in the hot oil and fry them on one side until nice and brown, about 3 minutes. Make sure you don’t crowd the pan, and keep an eye the oil’s temperature; it should not rise above 375 degrees or fall below 325 degrees. Carefully turn the livers and fry the other side an additional 2 to 3 minutes. 

Transfer the beautiful brown livers to the paper towel and drain. Sprinkle them with a little salt and keep the livers warm in the oven while you fry the second batch. 

I like to serve livers and figs with pickled red onions and arugula drizzled with the fig marinade. This way, it kind of feels like a salad. 

Yield: 4 servings