- What's that movie, um, with that Hannibal Lecter-- where he talks about eating liver?
"I want to eat your liver, um, with Chianti and fava beans."
- [laughs] - Yeah.
[sucking lips] Something like that.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ I've spent the last ten years of my life trying to become a liver lover.
Here's part of my journey.
♪ ♪ - One, two, three, four.
- I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef.
My husband, Ben, and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City, when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant.
Of course, there was a catch.
We had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina where I grew up and said I would never return.
["Will You Return" by the Avett Brothers] - ♪ I wish you'd see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ all: ♪ Why can't you see yourself ♪ ♪ As beautiful as I see you ♪ - So this is my life.
Raising twins, living on my parents' farm and exploring the South one ingredient at a time.
Previously on "A Chef's Life"... - I think it's official.
This is your last pile of books.
- I know.
Now that I'm back at the restaurant, I feel kind of silly signing books and not cooking.
Does everybody know what Feast of the Seven Fishes is?
It's traditionally the way a lot of Italian-Americans would celebrate Christmas Eve.
- Are you sitting down?
- Oh, no.
I'm sure I look tired.
It's great to be back.
[birds chirping] [soft giggle] [soft metal clanking] - Relax.
All right, this round, you do two punches down.
- It looks a lot different when he does it.
- [laughs] - So graceful.
[soft metal clanking] - Good.
Hands up, you're gonna do jab, knockout, kick with the front leg.
[metal clanks] Go.
- Get it, Holly.
[laughter] I don't want to meet her around the corner.
[laughs] It is hard to eat healthy on the road.
I have always heard that, but now, I know it firsthand.
But I'm not on the road anymore, so I can't blame my physique on travel.
It's time to work out.
- I told you, probably, we went to--I went to one of those classes and I almost vomited.
And I told him that I needed to be in Zumba Gold instead, and he said, "You'd be better off staying home and eating light popcorn."
[laughter] [gentle music] ♪ ♪ - Right here... - Okay.
- Is when Matthew came through-- - Yeah, there were chickens here last time.
- Yes, it kind of took the whole top off.
And my pens flooded, and I lost, like, 400 of my meat chickens.
- I'm so sorry, I had no idea-- I mean, I-- I had no idea.
- But we've been getting guineas... - Betting getting guineas.
- Which, by the way, we've gotten, like, several reviews where people have said, "And I can't believe that she is serving guinea pig!"
- [laughs] - It's a bird!
- It's a bird!
- We get all of our poultry and our rabbit and some of our pigs from Christy Crumpler.
Because of that, we get all of our liver from her too.
[gear clicking] - So in here, I got my first batch of chicks.
They're a week old now.
- And these are just regular little meat chicks?
- Yes, they're basically like a Cornish.
- And when we get the Cornish hens, do you send their liver?
- Yes, most of the time, the liver comes with it.
- And do they have a gizzard?
- They do have gizzards.
- What is a gizzard?
- [tsks] A gizzard is like the gut of, like, where the food goes through.
It breaks down what they eat.
- So most of the time when you go to, like, a country restaurant, there's livers and gizzards.
Now, I personally, don't like gizzards.
They're really, like, um, chewy.
- Chewy and hard, right?
- Yes, yes.
- Uh, well, I think there might be a gizzard in my future.
[laughs] Okay, okay.
[soft laugh] Okay, now this is personal.
[chick chirping] So what type of person comes and buys livers at the farmers' market?
- Most of the time, it's not gonna be a young person.
- [laughs] - It's gonna be a older person.
And most the time, they're gonna do chicken livers.
- They're gonna fry them?
- They're gonna fry them.
Now, we sell a lot of liver.
We sell a lot of beef liver.
Livermush, liver mousse, um, just liver and onions.
- My mom makes liver and onions.
- There's just a ton of ways that you can actually do it.
- Sometimes liver is overwhelming for me.
Like, I'm not typically like... - Right.
- A liver lover.
- And I find that the rabbit liver is like the most mild.
And definitely not pork liver.
It is like "shooting straight up my nose" strong.
- There's definitely a difference, um, between the size of 'em and the taste of 'em.
And I actually got you some.
- Oh-- - To look at.
- Oh, really?
- Oh, good, good.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ Oh.
Look at you, Christy.
It's like a science experiment.
- So I pulled a couple samples that I had.
- So this is the guinea?
- This is the guinea.
- And these would all be a lot redder if they hadn't been sitting... both: In the water.
- And so the liver, it has, like, essentially two little lobes - Mm-hmm.
- And this is a petite liver, I would say.
Now, that is one pig's liver right there.
- That is one pig's liver.
That would be a pig that dressed out somewhere around 250, 280 pounds.
- Now, this is strong tasting.
- Oh, and it smells really strong.
- I mean, I can smell it right here.
I got no love for this right here, I'm sorry.
And so these are rabbit livers?
- That is a rabbit liver.
- Which they're a little bigger than the chicken liver.
And certainly bigger than the guinea.
But I find that they're pretty mild.
And this is the chicken liver.
- That would be a chicken.
- So do you think that the color affects the flavor at all?
You know, like, the deeper red, you think that's a stronger tasting one?
- I do.
- Yeah, I do too.
- I do too.
- And then this is the beef liver.
- That is beef.
- The texture's like-- it's really like nothing else.
You know, it's very smooth and silky feeling.
And I can see why, like, an ancient culture would look at this versus everything else on an animal and think that it was, uh, special.
- Why, 'cause some cultures consider it so prized is because, you know, them cultures say they got curative powers, but it's because it's so good for you to eat.
And like I say, you can't eat it, but, like, the most, two times a week.
- I think I'm just gonna have to take more vitamins.
- [laughs] - And wash my hands right now.
So we're gonna go to Parker's and eat livers.
- Because in the South, we are known for fried chicken livers, that's us.
It's gonna have to be good.
- It's good!
- And we're gonna get some gizzards too.
- [sighs] - Just maybe one or two.
- I don't know if we can be able get them down now.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ - Parker's is one of the most famous barbecue places in eastern North Carolina.
But they're also famous for their fried chicken livers and gizzards.
- Billy Parker.
- Vivian Howard.
- Hey, nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.
I've heard that this is the place to have livers.
- Livers and gizzards, yep.
- Well, I--we're gonna do the gizzards too But I don't know how many.
- We're gonna try.
[laughter] - So this is a family business?
- It's a family business.
- And you're not the first... - I'm the third generation.
- The third generation?
- So Parker started with my great-uncles, back in the early '40s.
- And what are you known for?
- Well, we're known for our whole hog barbecue... - Mm-hmm.
- And fried chicken.
- So I might have to have some of that too.
- You need to.
- In addition to the gizzards.
- You need a liver, a gizzard, and some fried chicken.
- You'll be set.
[laughter] [gentle music] She's throwing in some livers right now.
- Oh, wow.
♪ ♪ What's your name?
- Miss Betty?
- Nice to meet you.
Have you worked here a long time?
- 'Bout 30-some years.
- 30-some years?
- So you fried a lot of livers?
- Oh, yes, ma'am.
- She's the best.
- Do you like to eat chicken livers?
- I don't eat chicken livers.
[laughter] - All right, so you just put them in there, roll 'em?
Is that just flour?
- Yes, ma'am.
Salt and pepper too.
- Salt and pepper.
- Yes, ma'am.
♪ ♪ - And those are the gizzards?
- Are y'all gonna eat some?
- I think so.
I--I'm not sure about how I feel about the gizzard part of it, but I'm gonna do it.
[timer beeping] ♪ ♪ They go the same amount of time?
- Same time.
- That timer's probably a big reason that y'all are known for these 'cause they don't get overcooked.
♪ ♪ - Livers right here.
These are the gizzards.
- I'm gonna try the liver first.
I'm gonna get me one that looks like it's got a lot of flour on it.
- This is hard to beat.
Put 'em right here.
- This is good.
- My mom used to cook liver and onions a lot.
And it smelled-- something about livers cooking, they smell incredible.
And so I always mistook them for something that I would like.
Have you tried your gizzard yet?
- I did.
[laughter] [gentle music] ♪ ♪ [phone ringing] - Hello?
- So you got my, uh, cast-iron piece?
- Right before my book tour, I met with someone from "CBS Sunday Morning" about them possibly doing a story on me.
Now it looks as if I might be able to do my own little story on "CBS Sunday Morning."
The part in the end where I'm talking about cooking as a luxury.
- Yeah, you know, I mean, I truly believe that people who cook at home in any great amount are, um, doing it because they have the time and the money and the desire.
You know what?
I think people, um, with low budgets are met with a host of issues before they get anywhere near the stove.
So I'm-- I'm comfortable with that.
I don't want to make anybody mad.
But I do--I-- I feel that it's true, so.
And I--so I feel like it's important for it to be in there.
I'm so excited.
I just--uh, hope I don't screw anything up.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ You know, all day yesterday I complained about how I didn't want to eat livers.
So I decided that I would cook with a liver that I actually really enjoy.
And so I ordered a lobe of foie gras, which is fattened duck or goose liver.
And it's like the totally opposite end of the spectrum.
I mean, we were talking about livers-- you know, fried chicken livers, or, uh, beef livers and onions as being humble food.
This is, like, one of the most luxurious ingredients on the planet.
And it's kind of controversial.
It's banned in some places, because this liver is ten times the size that it should be.
It's achieved by force-feeding ducks.
We're gonna run a special with foie gras, onion marmalade.
We're gonna pay homage to the liver and onions combination.
And we're gonna sit it on top of a fried sweet potato skin.
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ So I'm gonna cook these onions, caramelize them some, add some garlic, some thyme.
I don't want to cook all the texture out of my onions, so I'm not gonna let them caramelize naturally.
So I'm gonna add some sugar to help that along.
And then I'm going to pour in little red wine and sherry vinegar.
All of those things will bring these onions together and make a jam or a marmalade.
- How are you?
- I'm good.
How are you?
- I'm fine.
It's the last of the romaine.
It's kind of sad.
- Oh, really?
- So what are y'all up to?
We're doing a foie gras dish here.
- Oh, that'll be wonderful.
- Show the two ends of the liver spectrum.
There is the high end and the low end.
- There is, there is.
- All right I gotta get to work.
- Me too.
Good seeing you.
- Bye, Warren.
Foie gras comes in three grades: A, B, and C. And "A" is generally used for cooking whole pieces.
"A" is gonna be the most pristine-looking liver.
And this is "A."
You don't want to cut these pieces really thin, because this is going to render in the pan, and if it's too thin, it'll just disappear, essentially.
So you want to cut nice thick pieces.
So these little pieces-- this is something that, like, you could cut up into cubes.
And then if you're making, like, a pan sauce, instead of whisking in butter in the end, you could whisk this in, and it's gonna have, like, a lot of super awesome flavor.
Lots of times when people serve seared foie gras, they'll serve it on, like, a piece of brioche or something that's gonna kind of sop up the juice and the fat.
So, like, this is a roasted sweet potato that I'm gonna take about 80% of the flesh out.
And then we're gonna fry what's left.
I'm gonna go drop one of these.
♪ ♪ Joseph, I'm gonna drop one of these.
And I want it crispy.
Not that many people are gonna do this from home, uh, but you want to make sure your pan is hot, because you want to sear it; you don't want to render unnecessary fat from it.
It's gonna start shrinking immediately.
♪ ♪ Despite what I say about liver, it has been gaining in popularity over the past few years.
I think it's because offal in general has become more popular.
Offal, spelled O-F-F-A-L, means organs.
And liver is the most accessible and approachable form of offal.
Is it a coincidence that "offal" and "awful" sound an awful lot alike?
I don't know.
[sizzling] All right, so now I've got all this, like, really tasty fat in here, and I'm gonna make a little pan sauce.
These are handy jalapeños and onions.
♪ ♪ A little bit of sherry vinegar.
A few pickled mustard seeds for some nice texture.
This is gonna be sweet and spicy and tart and good.
♪ ♪ It's good.
My onion marmalade.
♪ ♪ Good.
I'ma let them taste it, 'cause a lot of people have probably never tried this before.
[indistinct talking] So tonight we're gonna have a little special.
There's only about seven orders of it.
You know, liver is generally humble food.
Fried chicken livers really came out of people going in the backyard, wringing a chicken's neck, bringing it in, and frying it, and not wanting to waste any of the chicken, so they would fry the liver and the gizzards.
And somebody would prefer those.
I don't know who.
I don't know why.
[soft laughter] It takes all kinds.
This is the absolutely opposite end of the spectrum.
So we have seared foie gras and an onion marmalade we're serving on a sweet potato skin.
Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy this.
- I'm nervous.
- Mm-mm, don't be.
- I have this really fond association with foie gras, because when I started working at Voyage, um, which is where I met Ben, you know?
On the duck plate, it had kind of like a pâté or a spread made with foie gras.
And little girl from Deep Run just... - What's, like... - Did not know what to make of all this.
And it was, like, just so eye-opening and exciting for me.
- I say yes to foie gras.
- You like it?
- I say yes, mm-hmm.
- How many people do we have tonight?
My seven orders of foie gras aren't gonna go very far.
[bluesy rock music] ♪ ♪ - We have a special dish, off-menu, that Chef is very excited about.
We have a seared foie gras.
- Good to see you.
We are featuring an appetizer or shared plate that I'm extremely excited about.
It's our pan-seared foie gras.
Chef, definitely got a foie gras that's gonna be sold on table 13.
- The first one off the count?
- So I think I'm gonna go with the duck.
- You do?
You want to have the foie gras?
- Okay, very good.
- Susan or Joanna will sell the first one, I bet.
- Oh, they did?
Here we go.
I'm in the weeds.
I'm in the weeds.
- I feel good, because it is something that they have never tried or even thought about trying.
[sizzling] - Foie gras is fatty and luxurious.
It's not difficult to make a delicious dish with it.
And I generally try to make humble ingredients taste luxurious.
But with foie gras, we're already there.
Foie gras is a high point on anyone's liver dream.
- Joanna, you can take yours.
♪ ♪ - This is the seared foie gras.
- [indistinct] and one foie gras.
- Another one?
- How gorgeous is that?
- Oh, wow.
♪ ♪ - Oh, wow.
♪ ♪ - How many are left?
- So three left?
- Three or two.
- Two or three.
- I like this, it's special that there's only eight of them.
- Can you give me a count on that foie gras?
- There is one left.
- Okay, well.
I'm pretty sure I've sold it to 23, so 86?
[together] 86, foie gras.
- Thank you.
Sold all of them before-- - Did I tell you that it got excellent reviews?
- Oh, good.
- Everybody said it was fantastic.
- Oh, great, great.
They're all gone now.
- They're all gone!
♪ ♪ - You want me to brush your hair?
Is that why you brought the brush?
- I didn't know if you brought it for my hair.
- [laughs] - You don't have as much of an issue with my hair these days, do you?
- No, I don't.
- I think it looks good.
- Okay, well thank you.
- Let me look at it.
It was an honor.
- [laughs] [gentle music] - If we're talking about my liver journey, then it started in my mom's kitchen with her fried beef liver and onions.
- Liver and onions is very inexpensive, if someone wants to have a meal on a low budget.
It was two packs for 1.99 - Wow.
That is cheap.
- So we need to fry them.
- I remember this, as a kid, smelling really amazing and thinking "I think I can eat that."
And then having it be absolutely awful.
- [laughs] Children didn't eat it very much.
- Should I turn the heat on?
- Uh, yeah.
- No, medium.
This liver burns easily.
And burned liver is not good.
- Oh, [laughs].
- But, you know, my parents grew up in the Depression, and they did, I'm sure, eat some liver.
♪ ♪ This is thin and nice.
Now let's put the onions in.
[sniffs] They are strong smelling.
- They are.
- We're gonna brown these.
Put a little bit of salt on them.
- I didn't realize you put salt on the onions.
- You put salt on the onions when they go in the pan, 'cause it makes them sweat.
It draws out the liquid.
- Well, I've never done that.
- You taught me something here.
[sizzling] - So how do you feel about chicken gizzards, Mom?
- I feel they're a little tough.
I'm not really fond.
I'd rather have a chicken liver.
They're almost done, aren't they?
- Yeah, is that how you want them?
- Oh, I think they're great that way.
We're gonna need to put some more oil.
- So we're not gonna cook it much because we're gonna put it back and put a lid on it, in just a few minutes.
- Oh, we are?
[gentle music] ♪ ♪ See, that looks good.
When you look at it, it looks really appetizing.
- Okay, that's about enough.
- Is that overcooked?
You do it just right.
This is cooking better in your fine pan than it did my frying pan.
- You know what this is, in the bottom of the pan, what we call it in the chef world?
- It's called fond.
And that's basically what's gonna flavor your gravy.
- Okay, we're just gonna put a little bit more in here.
- Put a little bit more, then put water in there.
♪ ♪ - Tell me when, Mom.
Oh, we're gonna set off the fire alarm.
- We'll put this back in.
And we'll put a lid over it.
And it'll soften the liver.
- And what about the onions?
Shouldn't they go in too?
You can cook it about 10 minutes like that.
♪ ♪ - You want to check on our liver?
- I think we might.
- Is that too much?
- No, no, no, it's just right.
♪ ♪ - It smells good.
Just taste the gravy.
It doesn't taste like liver.
- It's good.
- So, Dad, did you grow up eating liver and onions?
- That was poor people's food.
- Yeah, well now I think the people who are coming to liver are people who are coming to it from high-end restaurants.
- To me, it's good.
It's very tasty.
- This can be your supper.
- Is that all right with you, Dad?
- It'll be fine.
It'll be a little cheaper than the Chef & the Farmer one.
[laughter] ♪ ♪ Looks good.
- It's kind of like a wintertime food, wouldn't you say?
- Uh-huh, yeah.
♪ ♪ - The first bite, you know, when you get it in there, it's really good, and then you get that-- then you get the liver.
- It has a distinct taste, but I like it.
- The gravy's very good.
I think, actually, the gravy is superior to just, like, cube steak and gravy.
It's got a deeper flavor.
♪ ♪ [insects chirping] - For more information on "A Chef's Life," visit pbs.org/food.
"A Chef's Life" is available on DVD.