There are only a few menu items that will get me salivating with anticipation and one of them is liver. Yes, liver. No vegetables, appetizer or dessert. Just liver. Cooked with bacon and onions, a bit of balsamic vinegar tossed in at the end and served up medium rare on a plate. Pure bliss.
Don’t click away yet! Stick with me for a moment to reconsider how this important food is worth a second look.
For some reason liver has a poor reputation, being accused of storing toxins when it’s function in the body is instead to be a body’s traffic cop directing proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to their various destinations. Toxins are actually stored in the fat tissue, as in our own body. In a cow that’s been grass fed with no antibiotics, the directions from the liver are fairly consistent and innocuous. The liver of such an animal has been far less stressed and not exposed to toxins compared to feedlot cattle. For that reason I like to source liver from a grass fed animal from a local farmer’s market or butcher. Same with the bacon. What your food eats and how it lived directly affects your own health.
Liver is a true superfood when it comes to nutrition. A fantastic natural source of vitamin A (synthetic vitamin A has been shown to cause toxic reactions), vitamin C, several B vitamins including B-12, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, iron, and folic acid. The primary reason people resist eating liver seems to vary: the idea of it, the texture, or having eaten poorly prepared liver in the past. For those truly opposed to enjoying a plate of cooked liver, consider getting the benefit of it by chopping in a food processor with hamburger in a ratio of 1:3 liver to ground beef (3 oz ground liver mixed with 9 oz ground beef). It’s best chopped slightly frozen for better handling.
I use homemade lard because the stuff sold in the supermarket is hydrogenated and obtained from who-knows-how-the-pig-was-raised. The leaf lard I render from is obtained directly from a farmer who raises pigs in a pasture, not a pen.
Frozen liver is easier to slice for any meal preparation.. I get single serving pieces from the butcher and put them in small freezer bags when I get home. When mealtime comes, remove from freezer 30 minutes beforehand and, using a sharp chef’s knife, slice into pieces. Depending on your piece of liver, there may be liver ducts that need to be removed (they’re chewy and not appealing). This can be done before freezing to make your prep work quicker. For that I use sharp scissors to cut out the ducts. Yeah I know. If you’re unfamiliar with liver, that sounds gross, but no more than trimming silver skin from tenderloin. It doesn’t matter if the liver is chopped up by the scissors before you freeze because it will be sliced later anyway.
To add a certain je ne sais quoi to your balsamic flavour, consider using reduced balsamic vinegar. This is done by adding 1 cup balsamic vinegar to a saucepan and gently boiling it until reduced by half. It will have a syrupy texture when you remove from heat and pour into jar to cool. Don’t ignore while it’s cooking–it goes quickly from delicious syrup to burned mess. Ask me how I know. It smells exactly like what it is while it reduces: boiling balsamic vinegar. So, don’t do this just before you have guests over. The aroma is an acquired taste.
This also makes a great steak sauce. Want to make it even more fantastic? Add equal quantity of pomegranate molasses.
If you want to try liver prepared in a delicious traditional manner (not tasting like shoe leather), try this recipe. Remember, as with any meat, it’s only as good as the quality you start with.
- 100 g or 3 oz liver cut into 1/4 inch slices (pat dry with paper towel)
- 2 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup sliced onion
- 3 shitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- 2 tbsp lard
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
- Melt 1 tbsp lard in skillet over low heat and cook bacon, onions and mushrooms until soft.
- Remove to a plate, and turn up heat on skillet to medium high.
- Add remaining lard and when melted, add liver pieces. Keep them from touching will ensure they cook quickly. Cook about 1 minute, then turn over--they should have a little browning on the cooked side.
- Drizzle vinegar over liver and return onion mixture to pan. Toss and cook liver until cooked to your preference.
- Remove to plate and serve with whatever side dish you prefer.