When I was a kid growing up in Schuylkill County in the Anthracite Coal Region, one of the rituals my family participated in was a weekly (or almost weekly) visit to a farmers’ market/”auction” to pick up fresh produce, baked goods, flea market finds and other items the household needed for daily life (like vacuum parts for the ancient Hoover or to drop off the “touch lamp” for repair…)
There are two markets that have been staples for generations in the area I grew up in, Renninger’s Market in Schuylkill Haven, Pa. and Hometown Farmers’ Market , Hometown, Pa. Because my Dad, who owned a tractor-trailer and hauled coal to NYC and Philly, was on the road during the week, our “day out” was a trip to Renninger’s on Sunday afternoon.
Pop would circle and circle the dirt portion of the parking lot, kicking up a cloud of dust behind the Buick, looking for a convenient (translates into “close to an entrance door”) parking space to make shopping easier. Standard operating procedure was to buy “X” amount of goods and then Mom or Dad took the haul back to the car to drop the items off so we did not have to carry all the purchases around the entire market, juggling donuts or tomatoes while jostling our way through the crowd.
Sunday always yielded a major haul of lovely produce in season, and if you played your cards right and shopped close to closing time, the farmers often marked the stuff waaaay down so they did not have to haul it back to the farm or dispose of it. Our purchases varied slightly from week to week, but there was one thing I got almost every Sunday we were at Renninger’s – fried chicken livers! A stand at the market sold, among other things, fried chicken livers — and I LOVED them (Pop loved gizzards and hearts). Crispy and golden brown, different in flavor than beef liver, I ate them dipped in a tangy, yet smooth horseradish sauce the stand provided. They were addicting.
After Mom and Pop passed away in the late 80s, I found myself going to the market less, but I always got some fried chicken livers any time I visited. When I moved away from the Coal Region for awhile, I longed for the fried livers and realized I could make them myself. They are a very budget friendly dish, cook quickly, and bring back very fond memories for me of Sunday afternoons spent with my beloved parents.
Most supermarkets and butchers sell fresh chicken livers relatively cheaply. If you can only get them frozen, make sure to thaw them completely in the refrigerator before cooking. To clean and prep the livers for cooking, remove the fatty-looking string that connects the small and large lobes of a complete liver and trim any visible pieces of white connective tissue. You might also want to trim any green discoloration, which results from (harmless) contact with bile during processing. You do not need to try to remove every thread crossing through the piece. The goal is to obtain a solid medallion. You will end up with oyster-shaped pieces from half an inch to two inches long.
Chicken livers are high in water content, so when frying in hot oil, they will “pop”; a long-handled spatula or spoon and spatter screen should always be used. The spattering will not last long and will completely subside when the livers are done. As at all times in the kitchen, take your time, pay attention and use common sense!
Fried Chicken LiversCourse: Appetizers, EntreesCuisine: Pa. Dutch, Coal RegionDifficulty: Easy
1 pound chicken livers
1/2 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
- Place the chicken livers in a colander, and rinse with water. Drain the livers well.
- Whisk together the egg and milk in a shallow bowl until well blended.
- Place the flour, garlic powder, and salt and pepper in a resealable plastic zipper bag, and shake to combine.
- Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
- Place the chicken livers in the bowl of egg and milk mixture, and coat each liver. Place the livers, one at a time, into the plastic bag of flour mixture, and shake the bag to coat the each liver completely.
- Gently place the coated livers, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Cover the pan of oil with a frying screen to avoid getting burned by spatters of oil that will pop out as the livers fry. Deep fry the livers until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
- Drain on rack or paper towels.