Liver and Onions, Please

Not all of our parents grew up with this, but odds are your grandparents and great-grandparents probably regularly ate this dish. I didn’t grow up eating it, but I did cook it quite regularly in my early 20’s for my grandmother. As she got older we couldn’t trust her with the stove, not after she tried boiling water in a Tupperware on the stove top. But she loved food and whenever I would visit I would make anything she asked me to and always it was “liver and onions please!” She lit up when I said, “Sure, whatever you want, but you have to teach me because I’ve never made it.”. She couldn’t get it in restaurants, but she loved it and it turns out there was a good reason for her too.

The liver is packed with nutrients that are readily accessible to our bodies, especially when we need to build new blood. I learned just how much it can do first hand when I was exposed to chemicals that triggered hemolytic anemia (destruction of my red blood cells)- I would crave meat and I could literally eat pounds of rare meat per day.  If I ate some liver and onions during this time I didn’t need nearly as much meat because my body was getting so much more.

A common rejection of eating liver is the idea that the liver is a storage organ for toxins in the body. This isn’t a complete picture- one of the liver’s roles is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents, and poisons), but it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems. The liver stores many important nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid, and minerals such as copper and iron. These nutrients provide the body with some of the tools it needs to get rid of toxins. Check out the table below to see how liver compares to muscle meat, apples and carrots when it comes to nutrition. As with any meats I highly recommend organic, free range and grass-fed sources!  Heartland Whole Life in downtown E'Town has them- including liver.  You can also find it at many COOPs, Whole Foods, and some Trader Joes.

Yuck factor- High if you don't cook it right- when prepared correctly it's actually quite good but if you still don't like it you can grind it in with muscle meat and make spaghetti sauce, meatballs, hamburgers, etc. with it.  I have served it this way too many unsuspecting people who hate liver so much they can "taste it in anything" but were willing to let me try to fool them. And I did- they loved it.

Prep: thaw overnight and remove the membrane from the edge of the meat with a sharp knife, soak 2-4 hours or all day in raw milk or lemon juice in the fridge.

Cook liver in a skillet over med heat with coconut oil or bacon grease until pink in the center is faint- do not overcook.  I slowly sauté onions and garlic in a separate pan which takes about an hour but requires little attention so I start them and do other chores while they cook and then cook the liver after the onions are golden and caramelized.   To make onions: Peel and slice 3-6 onions (they reduce by about half while cooking), add fat of choice- I use 1T coconut oil and 1T butter or bacon grease- in cast iron skillet cook over low heat for 45min to an hour or more (if more onions) until onions are browned and caramelized. I stir them every 5-10min- whenever I pass by the stove while doing other things.  I also add 4-6 cloves of garlic to my onions as well- usually whole because I'm too lazy to slice them and I like their taste. If you like mushrooms adding some sliced to the pan at the beginning and allowing them to caramelize as well as divine.

Serve immediately!  I usually pair the liver and onions with roasted veggies (coarsely chop veggies, drizzle with olive oil and spices, roast at 350 for 45 min) and a cup of hot spicy bone broth to drink.

Soaking is the key- I never understood why my grandmother insisted on soaking it when I would cook for her until I tried cooking it without soaking it. YUCK!!!  Some people say to bread it and fry it- on the theory that anything tastes well fried...but regardless of how you make it, this is a food that should be a regular on your dinner table. Here are some other recipes and tips I found useful for cooking the liver. What’s your favorite liver dish?

 APPLE (100 g)CARROTS (100 g)RED MEAT (100 g)BEEF LIVER (100 g)
Calcium3.0 mg3.3 mg11.0 mg11.0 mg
Phosphorus6.0 mg31.0 mg140.0 mg476.0 mg
Magnesium4.8 mg6.2 mg15.0 mg18.0 mg
Potassium139.0 mg222.0 mg370.0 mg380.0 mg
Iron.1 mg.6 mg3.3 mg8.8 mg
Zinc.05 mg.3 mg4.4 mg4.0 mg
Copper.04 mg.08 mg.18 mg12.0 mg
Vitamin ANoneNone40 IU53,400 IU
Vitamin DNoneNoneTrace19 IU
Vitamin E.37 mg.11 mg1.7 mg.63 mg
Vitamin C7.0 mg6.0 mgNone27.0 mg
Thiamin.03 mg.05 mg.05 mg.26 mg
Riboflavin.02 mg.05 mg.20 mg4.19 mg
Niacin.10 mg.60 mg4.0 mg16.5 mg
Pantothenic Acid.11 mg.19 mg.42 mg8.8 mg
Vitamin B6.03 mg.10 mg.07 mg.73 mg
Folic Acid8.0 mcg24.0 mcg4.0 mcg145.0 mcg
BiotinNone.42 mcg2.08 mcg96.0 mcg
Vitamin B12NoneNone1.84 mcg111
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