For this dish, I took two dishes that were my favorite as a child and combined them. Turnip greens have always been my favorite green. As a child in my grandfather’s city garden, I would help tend to those greens like a jealous lover waiting excitedly for harvest. I get the same feeling of joyful expectation every time I make this dish.
Fried chicken livers are the Southern equivalent of foie gras, a delicacy equally desirable as a takeout item or on the finest table. Mustard barbecue sauce was born in South Carolina and is a one-of-a-kind sauce. It is perfectly suited for the crispy livers, but really embraces the strong flavor of the turnip greens. With the added cracked black pepper (you can add bird’s-eye chile for even more heat), this is an unforgettable Southern dish.
- In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, brown sugar, chili powder, vinegar, Worcestershire, Tabasco, cayenne, nutmeg, and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Stir well and bring to a light boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature, then use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
- In a large saucepot, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the stock, and bring to a boil. Add the greens by the fistful, stirring to coat the greens with the stock and adding more greens as they shrink. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the greens are very tender, 30 to 45 minutes.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Line a plate with paper towels and set it nearby.
- Put the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the livers with 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Lightly dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, add the livers to the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 11/2 minutes per side. Do not let them overcook. Drain on paper towels.
- Stir the cracked pepper into the greens. Taste and season with salt. Transfer to a platter and top with the livers. Drizzle with the Mustard Barbecue Sauce and serve immediately.
Excerpted MEALS, MUSIC, AND MUSES: Recipes From My African American Kitchen by Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Copyright © 2020 by Alexander Smalls. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Beatriz da Costa.