TL;DR We look to scraps for inspiration, creating our own “Chopped” challenge between East and West Coast.

Recipe: Using wasted ingredients, we created an Asian stir-fry that was actually inspired by the classic Italian sausage and peppers. Our take includes Liver, Peppers, and Chicken liver served in a bread bowl.

Inspiration

American’s waste about 40% of our food. As responsible cooks, we dedicated this inspiration to cooking with food that is usually wasted: offal, leftover greens, condiment packets, herb stems, and stale bread. We did this chopped style between West Coast and East Coast and your likes on our social media pages will help us decide the winner. Check out West Coast’s take on the Chopped Challenge here, but vote for me!

The baskets

  1. Offal – Chicken Liver
  2. Leftover Greens – Celery leaves
  3. Herb Stems – Parsley or Cilantro Stems
  4. Condiment Packets – Soy sauce, ketchup
  5. Stale Bread

Research

Offal is so woefully underrated in American cuisine. As a child growing up in China, offal plays as large of a part in daily meals as any meat. Liver, specifically, would be used in stir-fries, soups, or braised or smoked or pickled. I would always be told to eat more liver, because it is “good for the eyes.” While I blew it off then as a bunch of hullabaloo, it turns out my grandparents’ ancient Chinese wisdom is correct!

Liver contains a laundry list of essential vitamins, including but not limited to:

  • Vitamin A (This is really good for the eyes)
  • Folates
  • Riboflavin
  • B-12
  • B-3
  • B-5
  • And a smorgasbord of minerals: iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, etc etc

The one positive side effect of America’s aversion to offal is how cheap liver is. I was able to buy a pound of liver for $1.50! Liver truly is the budget-friendly superfood for carnivores.

Development

I had a few ideas on what to do with liver – one of which was a Ground Pork and Liver Meatball. I scratched that idea however, since the meatball is meant to hide the liver, but I want to showcase the liver front and center.

I then thought of how I usually ate liver as a child, in a dish called 溜肝尖 (this roughly translates to slip liver tips. The “slip” part actually makes sense considering the technique is to coat the liver in cornstarch as to make it juicier and more slippery). This dish is usually coupled with bell peppers and spicy green peppers.

When I thought of peppers, my mind jumped to another dish – Italian sausage and peppers. I remember going to the street fairs in the nearby Italian neighborhood when I was in high school, and gorging myself on those hearty hoagies. The sweet peppers, savory onions, and spicy Italian sausage…all dripping tons of sauce and yummy oil, which I then sopped up with the crusty bread and devoured. Mmm.

I then thought of combining the two dishes, substituting out the sausage for liver. Both are heavy, hearty types of meat with a strong flavor. The onions and pepper are strong enough to stand up to the flavor of the liver. This dish will also create a sauce as it cooks, which can be sopped up with bread.

Taking the idea to paper, I wanted to test to see if the flavors would work with each other. Here is my back-of-the-envelop (literally!) mapping.

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All the flavors worked well with each other except for oregano. While oregano is great for sausage and peppers, I believe the addition of it would tip this dish too much over to the Italian side. I want the predominant herb flavor to still be from cilantro stems. Otherwise, everything is a go.

Concept Draft

The concept is “Sausage Liver Onions and Pepper”.

  • The liver is cooked 溜肝尖 style to ensure a juicy, soft bite.
  • The liver will also be flavored with soy sauce for umami.
  • Cooking wine will be added to take away any strong organ flavors.
  • Peppers, onions, and celery will be cooked together to meld the flavors. Ketchup is added for more Italian flavor.

Flavor Profile

  • Taste: Meaty, slightly mineral taste of the liver, rich and hearty vegetables, spicy from jalapeno pepper
  • Aroma: the smell of the cooked onions and peppers
  • Mouthfeel: Rich, chewy liver and soft, flavorful vegetables
  • X-factor: a fusion take on an Italian favorite with a dash of umami that utilizes a cheap and healthy superfood

Testing/Execution

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Breadbowl

  • This was the easiest component
  • Cut off the top of a loaf of bread
  • Scoop out the center, taking care not to make any holes

Liver

  • To prep, soak in water with lemon juice
  • Change the water a few times to get the blood out
  • Coat with cornstarch, add soy sauce and cooking wine and let sit for 20 m
  • Stir-fry liver in oil until 80% cooked

Vegetables

  • Chop bell pepper and onion into pieces the size of your thumb
  • Dice japapeno and celery
  • Stir-fry in oil (I know the picture shows butter, I used oil instead)
  • Once vegetables begin to soften, add in the 80% cooked liver
  • Continue to stir-fry, add in ketchup packets to taste ( I added 2)
  • Add in celery greens and lots of  cilantro stems
  • Cook for a few more minutes to let them wilt
  • Flavor with salt and black pepper

Plating

  • Scoop into bread bowl
  • Garnish with celery leaf

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Major Equipment

Post-game Analysis

East Coast

  • Hearty without being overwhelming, the cilantro stems add a nice balancing factor to the richness
  • The flavor profile I had described is on point. Seriously, this tastes amazing. I could sell this.
  • I really wish I had a wooden cutting board for plating, it’d look quite nice with the loaf of bread.

West Coast

  • I think I win.