Monday, 16 January 2012

Salade Picardine with Pan-Fried Chicken Livers

Laon in the Picardy region of northern France is a tiny town with a beautiful cathedral and a town square surrounded by three ordinary-looking cafes. Hardly the sort of place that  I would have expected to eat a lunch that would stay in my memory for the best part of fifteen years, due to its utter perfection in composition and execution.

Chicken liver salad? Surely not? Well, it certainly wasn't the half carafe of cold, rough vin rouge, or the pack of Gitanes (in my smoking days) casually strewn next to the Ricard-advertised, slightly charred plastic ashtray on the table that warped my sense of proportion, so the salad it must have been.

Laon is the sort of place you probably only stop at on a southern drive through France from England, on a tour to your French Riviera destination - but trust me, I'll be making this stop on my next trip.

Chicken livers are unbelievably cheap to buy, and probably my favourite offal of all. This dish, which is an ideal year-round lunch, winter dinner starter or summer dinner main course, costs a 'fantastique' £1.50 per serving to produce. Wine and cigarettes are extra.

Serves 4


2 large waxy potatoes, such as Desiree
6 tablespoons of olive oil
500g chicken livers, untrimmed
2 tablespoons of dried Herbes de Provence, or mixed herbs
Pinches of salt and pepper
1 large round (soft) lettuce
2 large ripe tomatoes, cut into half-rounds
1 red onion, cut into half-moons

Preheat your oven to 150c. Peel and cut the potatoes into 1cm dice. Fry the potatoes, on a moderate heat, in half of the oil until golden and crunchy. Set aside and keep warm in the oven. Sprinkle the herbs over the chicken livers until they have formed a thick coating. Turn the heat under the pan to the highest setting and with the other half of the oil, fry the chicken livers for 3 minutes approx in the blisteringly hot pan, turning once. The livers should be pink in the middle. Create the salad by arranging a layer of lettuce leaves on a lareg serving platter, and dotting them with the potato cubes. Scatter the tomatoes and onion over the potatoes and then place the herb-encrusted chicken livers evenly over the entire dish. Sprinkle vinaigrette dressing over the salad just before serving - and before the potatoes and livers have dropped too much in temperature.


French Vinaigrette Dressing


50ml sunflower oil
25ml red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper

Mix well and sprinkle on salad.

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