I’m always looking out for interesting ways to serve liver to people that don’t think they like offal, and these traditional German dumplings are a great way to do that. Liver and kidneys, especially from ruminants like deer, lamb and goat, are some of the hardest to get people to like, and alot of times cooking with them kinda means finding a way to hide them a bit, finesse them, or otherwise dress them up. These smokey, bacon-y braunschweiger dumplings are a study in different ways I might do that.
3 ways to calm liver: cut it, leech it + smoke
Calming the liver is basically a 3-pronged process. First, the liver is soaked. Typically you’ll see liver being purged in milk, which is good too, but when the livers are from venison, I’ll probably soak them in a few washes of water, similar to how I leech the tannins from acorns. The more washes you do, the more flavor will get washed away–for better or for worse.
The second part of the process is cutting the mass of the liver with another submissive ingredient, in this case, breadcrumbs. Flour can work, but, if overworked will toughen. Breadcrumbs though, already having some of their properties being denatured from cooking, won’t form gluten strands, which is one of the reasons they’re traditionally added.
Lastly, smoke. Anyone who’s eaten liver can also tell you that it has an affinity for smoked things, especially bacon. Mmmm, bacon–especially my homemade venison bacon. If you’re not aware, see my original post on venison bacon here. Of course, you can use good old pork bacon, but, it won’t be the same. Venison bacon is fatty, and, that’s a good thing, as the fat helps the dumplings firm up after adding the breadcrumbs. Pork bacon is also not as easy to puree as my homemade bacon, so make sure to pulse it first in the food processor to really break it up–preferably half frozen if you substitute it.
After you make the puree of liver, you just add some breadcrumbs, season it up a bit, and let the batter firm in the fridge for a while. Traditionally from there, you’d poach the dumplings directly in some good broth, and serving them could be as simple as that. You can do that, and it’s ok, but I like to blanch them in salted water and then add them to another soup, like the one at the top of this post–a soup of celery root, kale, cauliflower and potatoes.
Venison Braunshweiger or Liver Dumplings
- High speed blender or good food processor
- 12 oz venison or other liver cut into 2 inch pieces
- 4 oz venison or other bacon finely chopped or ground
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup breadcrumbs preferably sourdough
- 1 large egg
- 10 scrapings of fresh nutmeg or ¼ teaspoon ground
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram or ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or ½ teaspoon dried
- ½ small onion 2 oz
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Soak the liver in water in the fridge for 1-2 days, changing the water as often as you can remember. In the bowl of a food processor or high speed blender, pulse all the ingredients except the baking powder and breadcrumbs, then puree until as smooth as possible, it should a smooth puree, and be loose enough to pour.
- If you're using store-bought bacon, consider using a blender to ensure it becomes smooth. Transfer the liver puree to a bowl, add in the breadcrumbs, stir well to combine and allow rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil as for pasta.
- Sift the baking soda to break up lumps, then beat into the meat mixture. Using a scoop, or two large spoons, form dumplings about the size of small golf balls, or 22 grams, and poach in the stock for 10 minutes at a gentle simmer, then remove, and add to soup (see note).