Now, now – hear me out on this, okay? (I can hear you groaning, you know.)
I have always loved liver and onions, myself. I think I was fed it for the first time when I was very small by my great-aunt Maxine, a woman one simply did not argue with – if she sat something in front of you, you ate it, end of discussion. In fact, there was no discussion.
Most Americans balk when it comes to organ meats, and I’m certainly among their numbers – while I enjoy beef and chicken liver, I have yet to force myself to try kidneys or sweetbreads. It’s really a shame, because the organs of animals are among the most nutritious parts. A 3-ounce serving of beef liver, for instance, contains the recommended daily allowance for riboflavin, copper, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12 and better than 40% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin B6, phosphorus, iron, zinc, folate and protein.
I think part of the problem we have with organ meats, especially liver, is that they’ve gotten something of a bad rap as of late – while that 3-ounce portion of beef liver is really nutrient-dense, it also contains a good amount of cholesterol and we’ve been made needlessly afraid of dietary cholesterol over the last 30 years (thank you, Time Magazine). Another concern – and this one is very real – is the toxins contained in liver; the liver’s job is to clean them out of a person’s (or steer’s) system. If you have a steer in a feedlot, eating an unnatural diet in filthy conditions and getting regular doses of antibiotics and growth hormones, its liver isn’t going to be in great shape. In fact, the livers of most feedlot cattle when they’re slaughtered are infected and full of abscesses; I wouldn’t touch the beef liver sold in a grocery store with a 10-foot pole. The liver of a healthy steer that’s spent its life out in the pasture, eating what it’s supposed to be eating and doing what it’s supposed to be doing, is free of these toxins and healthy for you.
I think another issue most people have with organ meats is that we’re so used to eating only the muscle meat of animals – we expect liver to taste and have the texture of a steak when it’s not. Beef liver has a strong, distinct flavor (that can mitigated somewhat by soaking in milk – or any marinade, really – before cooking) and a softer, almost mealy texture that can easily turn tough if overcooked. Gently cooked until just barely pink in the middle, grass-fed beef liver can be delicious, especially when smothered in bacon and sauteed onions. ‘Cause what isn’t better smothered in bacon and sauteed onions?
Oh – if you need an endorsement for how good this tasted, ask The Young One, who had never eaten a piece of liver in his life and was hesitant to even try it. He went back for seconds.
Beef Liver with Onions and Bacon
serves 3 – 4
1 pound thinly sliced beef liver, preferably grass-fed and finished
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 pound bacon, preferably pastured, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
Place the liver in a large bowl and add enough milk to cover; set aside and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
Heat a large, heavy – preferably cast iron – skillet over medium-low heat and cook the bacon until just crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve on a plate; keep warm.
Remove all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the skillet and reserve. Over medium-low heat, cook the onion until soft, translucent and fragrant, but not brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the plate with the bacon; keep warm.
Drain the milk from the liver, pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Return the reserved bacon fat to the skillet. Gently cook the liver slices in the bacon fat over medium-low heat until barely pink inside, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Serve immediately, smothered in the onions and bacon.
Posted in participation with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday