Do you ever wish you had a secret power? I don’t mean like some stupid superhero who can fly, make it rain, or look great in a unitard. I mean like a gerbil’s ability to store tasty bits in its cheeks for later, or a tiger’s ability to eat 30lbs of wild boar at a single sitting, that kind of thing. No? Hmm, well, I do, and sometimes, in my more reflective moments, I find myself wishing I was blessed with a gizzard. After all, would not my diet be expanded and my ‘intestinal transit’ made smoother if I possessed a specialized second stomach that enabled me to grind up and enjoy commonly indigestible foods?
Having recently questioned a sample group of poultry, reptiles and fish (the only three genera of animals that possess gizzards) about this, I can tell you that 9 out of the 10 chickens surveyed credited their gizzards with giving free reign to their more fibrous dietary proclivities. In the course of my survey, I also learned that while addiction and dependency issues brought on by knowingly being bred for slaughter are a big problem for young roosters, the greater worry among concerned hens is the utter disregard for their gizzards demonstrated by the carnivorous public.
“That’s my son’s (second) stomach they’re throwing them away!”, cock-a-doodle-doed one plump mother of 700 chicks, while another squawked that, “they (humans) should be so lucky to have a gizzard of their own. Ingrates!”
Chastened by these plaintive cries, and encouraged to make a salad we ate at a fabulous gastropub in Lille, France, over New Year’s, we recently explored the potential of confit-ing chicken gizzards. We found that nothing could be easier and more delicious, nor could this preparation be more suited to making the best out of what is a potentially tough part of the giblets.
We served our gizzards and some similarly confit’d chicken livers over a green salad with some boiled eggs, just as we had eaten it in Lille, but an alternative preparation typical to the Dordogne region of France, especially the town of Perigeux/Perigord, serves the gizzards over a lettuce salad with walnuts and croutons, which would be just as good, no doubt.
For the marinade
- 1/2lb cleaned chicken gizzards (optional: trimmed of all tough membranes)
- 1/2lb chicken livers
- 30 cloves or 2 heads garlic, finely chopped
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped of leaves
- 10 sage leaves, thinly sliced
For the confit
- Take two large bowls, or even better, two large zip-lock bags, and place (trimmed and cleaned) gizzards in one and livers in the other. Split marinade ingredients between the two and make sure everything is well mixed together.
- Allow to marinade in fridge for at least 12 hours, preferably 24.
- Remove from marinade and brush errant garlic and herbs off gizzards and livers.
- Take two large cazuelas (low clay pots) or baking dishes, place gizzards in one and livers in the other.
- Preheat your oven to 225F / 110C.
- Warm the duck fat up first in the baking dish so it melts (you can just place it in the oven for a minute). Nestle gizzards and livers as much as possible in the duck or goose fat (hopefully they’ll be submerged), and place in the oven.
- You want your livers to be still pink in the middle, so pull them out after 50 minutes and take a look. Give them an extra 10 minutes if you think they need it.
- Gizzards should cook for two hours.
- Ball (tall, glass) jars are good for keeping confit’d giblets in, so make sure you have some to hand.
- Remove gizzards and livers from the baking dishes and put into separate glass containers. Strain the leftover fat to remove some of the impurities and pour over gizzards and livers and seal.
- These can be stored at room temperature, but it’s safest to keep them in the fridge (they will keep for a few weeks).
- To make salad: Brown gizzards and/or livers very quickly in a hot pan immediately before serving.
- Serve over salad leaves, that, if you are so moved, could be dressed with a goose or duck fat and white wine vinegar dressing. You could also add chopped tomatoes, 7-minute boiled egg and onion (or whatever else you like).
- Enjoy with a large glass of robust red wine. It goes nicely flavor-wise, but, very usefully, doubles as insurance against heart-disease.