“The gizzard, also referred to as the ventriculus, gastric mill, and gigerium, is an organ found in the digestive tract of some animals, including birds, reptiles, earthworms and some fish. This specialized stomach constructed of thick, muscular walls is used for grinding up food; often rocks are instrumental in this process. In certain insects and mollusks, the gizzard features chitinous plates or teeth.”
Like most organ meats, chicken gizzards are a love ’em or hate ’em affair. I’m in the former category, and here and there you’ve seen me post about them, mostly at Peruvian restaurants, which down here seem to be the only folk that cook them. They must be used in some of the Chinese cooking because they’re available all over Chinatown, but I’ve not seen them on any menus. And, of course, there was that big batch of fried ones we gobbled down when I was in Baltimore last year. I grew up on them – not that we’d have them as a main course, but the “giblets”, which include the neckbone, liver, heart and gizzards, was often a part of whatever chicken cookery we were being served. Waste not, want not.
Today, my version of Peruvian style chicken gizzards. Now, there are two classic preparations, al ajo and al sillao, respectively, with garlic and with soy sauce – the latter presumably coming from the strong Chinese and Japanese influences in Andean cuisine. This isn’t either, this is my own synthesis of the two with some other dribs and drabs, it’s been a gradual adjusting of the recipe until I’ve gotten it how I want it. Folks coming to dinner this weekend will get to sample them themselves as one of the courses. So what to call them? Mollejitas al Miso, Mollejitas Mias? Hmm, maybe a return to my own roots…
Peruvyanishe Pipik’lach (“Peruvian Navels”)
This is a chicken gizzard. In its raw state it’s pretty unappealing looking. It’s got two firm, rubbery nodules connected together by a mix of organ meat and sinew. Oh yum, doesn’t that sound good? Here, the goal is to clean them and cut them. I remove as much of the fat as I can, and any really tough pieces of sinew or connective tissue. Then I slice them – there will still be a little surface “skin” on them, don’t worry about that, they don’t have to be “peeled” like some organs (say, a kidney). I give them a good rinse to get rid of any grit and gravel, which birds swallow to help the grinding process in this, more or less, second stomach.
So when they’re all cut up and cleaned, they look like this. For this recipe I used a little less than a kilo of them, so, let’s say after cleaning, 2 pounds.
Some people salt them and let them sit overnight, some people soak them in cold water or milk, some people do, well, whatever. I put them in a big pot with a cinnamon stick and a couple tablespoons of salt, bring it to a simmer and cook them for about an hour and a quarter, until they’re nice and tender.
While they’re happily simmering away I get the rest of my ingredients ready. The final cooking is actually a really quick one. From the top left, row by row: 3 tablespoons miso paste, 1 head of roasted garlic paste (you can throw a head of garlic wrapped in foil into the oven when you put the gizzards on the stove, it’ll be done by the time they are), about a cup of sliced red onion (I like them sliced vertically rather than in half rings), 1 tablespoon of hot paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ cup of soy sauce, ½ cup white wine, 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, 2 teaspoons sugar. Optional, though I generally don’t use it, the addition of a half to whole teaspoon of MSG would be common in a classic Peruvian, Chinese or Japanese preparation – I get that extra umami flavor from the miso instead.
When the gizzards are done, drain them and remove the cinnamon stick.
I like to use a wok for this, but a good sized frying pan will work just fine. Get it really, really hot, this will all be done over high heat. Put the sesame oil in, let it get hot for a few seconds and add the onions, quickly stir-frying them, for about a minute.
Add the gizzards and continue stir-frying for 4-5 minutes.
You want them to start to brown and get all those nice caramelized flavors of both the onion and the surface of the meat.
Add the white wine and continue cooking, until the liquid has been absorbed into the mix.
Add the dry ingredients – hot paprika, cumin and sugar – and continue stir-frying for about a minute to develop their flavors.
Add the remaining ingredients – miso, roasted garlic paste, soy sauce – and again continue to stir-fry, making sure everything is well coated and nicely flavored – maybe 1 minute more. Taste for seasoning – with the miso and soy you shouldn’t need any salt added, but it’s up to you.
Serve up with rice and greens – here some sauteed Swiss chard. Enjoy!