Friday, April 13, 2012

Cheap Cuts of Meat

Chicken Livers and Gizzards 

Chicken livers is one of my son’s favorite foods and for a change inexpensive.  Although fried gizzards and livers wouldn't be the first meal chosen by many, they can be a wise option. You can lower your food bill by using often-tossed-out chicken gizzards and livers in your cooking. Chicken gizzards and livers can be prepared quickly and with little work on your part, if cooked the right way, can be a delicious, nutritious meal.

Cut halfway into the top of the gizzards, and place them in a bowl of water. Work your fingers through the inside of the gizzards to remove all grit.

Cut the gizzards in half, and trim all the non-meat edges off the gizzard with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors. Slice off the silver skin, leaving you with only the meat of the gizzards.

Remove the large vein in the center of your chicken livers using a sharp knife, and cut off any noticeable yellow fat.

Coat the gizzards and livers with olive oil and a thick layer of flour.

Place a butter frying pan, and sauté the gizzards and livers over medium heat until they are light brown on both sides.

Coat the gizzards and livers with the salt.

Cover the mixture and allow it to simmer on the lowest setting for half an hour. Turn the liver and gizzards over, and simmer them for an additional 30 minutes.

At Thanksgiving, I don’t know about your family, but mine fights over who will get the turkey liver and gizzard before the turkey ever gets to the table.

One of my favorite appetizer dishes is Rumaki made with chicken livers.  


1/2 pound chicken livers (30 chicken livers)
15 slices thin bacon, cut in half
1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained (Optional but traditional)
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut each chicken liver in half; put a water chestnut slice between the two halves; wrap with a slice of bacon and secure with toothpick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Combine soy sauce and melted butter in a container large enough to hold the chicken livers. Add the chicken livers; turn to coat well; cover container and marinate for 3 to 8 hours. Just before serving, broil for about 5 minutes on each side.  Recipe will make 30 appetizers.

Chicken Gizzard and Noodles

I love chicken gizzards so much I make them with my homemade noodles into a soup.  I have already shared the recipe early for the noodles.  I boil the gizzards in my homemade chicken broth. I also shared that recipe with you earlier.  Clean, slice thinly and boil the gizzards until they are very tender.

When they are tender make sure there is plenty of broth (add water if necessary) and add your noodles.  You can also use store bought noodles.  Cook until the noodles are tender and garnish the soup with green onions or chives.

Really on a college kid's budget?  Try using the cheap Ramen noodles with lots of broth and gizzards. 

Thanksgiving Liver and Gizzard Dressing

For those traditionalists, you can use the turkey liver and gizzard for your dressing or cut up in small pieces and use in your turkey gravy.  Do not toss them out.  Like I said, we never have a chance to use them because they are eaten by family.  If you are lucky enough to have them, I like to use the pre-packaged sage dressing with the sage and onion already added and just add chicken broth and the liver and gizzard and a little extra turkey if I can. 

Chicken Liver Pate 

1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1/4 pound chicken livers, trimmed and chopped
1/3 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
Hot sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, onion and chicken livers. Reduce heat to low, and simmer approximately 10 minutes, until chicken livers are tender and no longer pink.

Place chicken liver mixture in a blender with cream cheese, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl, cover and chill in the refrigerator approximately 2 hours before serving.

This makes a wonder spread for crackers, artisan breads or toast points. 

Bottom line, for less than $1.00 you can purchase chicken livers or gizzards for a meal for two or more people.  Why not try some and help your budget and taste buds out.


Sweetbreads are the ultimate organ meat, highly prized by chefs and connoisseurs for their mild flavor and velvety texture.  Once they were tossed away or only used as cheap cuts of meat.  My Granddad introduced me to them since he was a butcher and would bring home cuts that no one wanted.  They are a very versatile meat and can be prepared using virtually any cooking method. They can be sautéed, braised, poached, grilled, fried, and even roasted. In addition to center of the plate entrees, sweetbreads can figure prominently in hot or cold appetizers, stews, salads, pates, terrines, and sausages.

These tender and delicately flavored meats come exclusively from young animals, most often lamb or veal. Veal sweetbreads are the most commonly used by chefs today. Sweetbreads come in two varieties. The first is the thymus gland, also called the throat sweetbread or gorge in French. The second variety is the pancreas, also referred to as the stomach sweetbread or noix in French. The stomach sweetbread is most prized because of its larger size and oval shape. It can easily be presented whole or sliced into medallions. Some claim that the throat sweetbreads have less flavor than their counterparts. Because the throat sweetbreads are elongated they are usually reserved for dishes like stews and ragouts where they will be presented in small pieces. Lamb sweetbreads are much smaller and have a less delicate flavor compared to veal sweetbreads.

Regardless of how they will be cooked and presented, all sweetbreads must follow the same initial preparation. First, sweetbreads should be soaked in cold water for a minimum of several hours (I soak them up to 24 hours in salt water in the refrigerator). This removes any traces of blood. This soaking produces a whiter and milder tasting sweetbread (both of which are desirable characteristics).  I'm old school so use the long method that takes more than a day to prepare, but they are well worth waiting for.

After soaking, the sweetbreads should be rinsed and blanched. Begin by placing them in a pot and covering them with cold water. (Some chefs add a touch of salt, and lemon juice or vinegar to the blanching liquid.  I just add salt.) Bring them to a boil. If they are stomach sweetbreads, allow them to simmer for a few minutes.

Remove the sweetbreads from the blanching water and put them into ice water. This helps remove impurities, makes the sweetbreads even whiter and helps firm up the tissue so the organ can be more easily trimmed.

Trim the sweetbreads to a desired shape after using your fingers to remove any visible veins or gristle. Press the sweetbreads by laying them on a towel on a tray, covering them with another towel and tray and placing something heavy on the top tray.

Refrigerate the sweetbreads for two to twenty-four hours. Slice them into medallions or other desired shapes, then sauté, fry or grill and prepare them for your recipe.

Use sweetbreads as desired, such as part of a white or brown sauce, sautéed in butter, a topping for a meat dish or an addition to many different dishes.

I like to just coat them in flour or Panko bread crumbs and sauté in butter until golden brown.  You can also straight-up deep fry them like a chicken nugget.

If you fried them in butter, make brown gravy with the dripping left.  Add some green onion to the dripping and saute them.  Add a little beef broth and season well with salt and pepper.  When boiling add a corn starch slurry to thicken the gravy.   Wonderful served over new asparagus.  Keep it simple so you do not loose the delicate flavor of the sweetbreads.

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about cooking over an open camp fire.  We love to camp and cooking is a huge part of the experience we share as a family.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

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