High Nutrition for Pennies: Liver and Onions

I caught a cold I haven't been able to shake much. I woke up with it the day after finishing the book—likely the result of a compromised immune system from the stress and long hours at work over the preceding days. Or, it's just what happens sometimes. I really can't remember the last time I had a cold, but it was a few years back.

Sometimes shit just happens.

I've previously "megadosed" vitamin D to the tune of 20-25K IU per day when I felt a cold coming on and was successful in heading it off. Not this time. Had to finally result to some OTC medications and I must say, Mucinex is da bomb!

I also figured it might be good to eat well. I've been eating a bunch of eggs and last night, decided to do liver & onions. I got on Twitter and asked folks what they'd used to dredge or dust their beef liver with as an alternative to flour, and got back lots of ideas from potato starch to arrowroot. I ended up dumping a heaping tablespoon each of potato starch, coconut flour and tapioca flour into a bag to shake the liver in.

Preparation was pretty straightforward. I first marinaded the liver for an hour or so in fresh squeezed lemon juice per Nourishing Traditions. Rinsed it, set it out to dry. Then chopped up a half pound of bacon & fried it in the cast iron, set aside the bits and began to fry 2 medium yellow onions, sliced. When those were done, which takes a while, I scooped them out, set them aside, coated the liver with my concoction and fried the 1.5 pounds I acquired for $2.77 at Lunardi's—a local high-end market— for just a couple minutes per side, set them on a plate to rest a bit, reintroduced the onions to finish them off, and we've got a meal. Click on the images for the hi-res versions.

Liver1
Liver and Onions
Liver2
With Bacon!

Notice that I like my onions pretty well toasty, not the "worms" one typically sees or gets in a restaurant. I like to use Dijon mustard as a condiment, which I learned from the French. We had liver regularly on the two ships I spent a couple of years on.

Yes, the "flour" concoction worked nicely. I used just tapioca flour a few years back but it stuck to the pan pretty badly. This did not.

Remember, this is nature's multi vitamin, and considering the cost, the most nutrition per dollar that exists in the world. See how liver stacks up nutritionally against fruit, and bread.

Comments

  1. paleo-debunked says:

    You could have avoided that cold with a vegan diet. Oh well, your loss.

  2. good call on the favorable cost-benefit curve of organ meats. heart is also great (and milder taste for those who don’t love liver).

  3. Sheesh- why even coat the liver? It works just fine fast-fried plain.

    • Because I prefer it that way?

      • Valid preference argument aside, beef liver is just too goddamn delicious to be masking with other crap. I don’t even like to apply heat to it for very long and eat it mostly raw like I do with pretty much all other meat. I don’t understand people that don’t love the natural taste of organ parts, especially liver. It’s like we’re living in wildly different parallel universes.

      • That’s nothing, I drive SR 60 here in Florida a couple of times a week, a few times a year there will be a wild boar that got hit by a truck on the side of the road. Most drivers pass it by, but I get out my Leatherman multi-tool and enjoy some pork sushi al fresco.

      • As long as it’s nice and fresh. I’m not sure I’d enjoy roadkill that’s been aged by Florida’s humidity and tenderized by its rich and diverse insect population.

      • I know that trichinosis has all but disappeared from commercial pork, but is the same likely to be true for feral hogs?

        Yeesh.

      • I would expect a wild boar to be much cleaner than the average farm pig.

      • Wild boar is more likely to have parasites, and because of the similarity between pigs and humans, the opportunity for cross-infection is strong. Wild boar has some clear nutritional advantages, but cleanliness is not one of them.

      • Galina L. says:

        Probably, some day I try to use something like onion powder, or even crashed potato chips, or dry milk. There are so many powdered substances around besides starches or flower.

  4. mmmm, looks good. I skip the coating as well, but will have to try with dijon next time.

  5. I’m lucky to get grass fed offal for $2/lb. I love heart and tongue. Smothered in bacon is the only way I can eat liver, but I’m happy to do so.

  6. Thanks for the tip. I have a bunch of grass-fed beef and pastured chicken livers waiting in my freezer!

  7. Will have to try this! I buy three pounds of organic chicken livers every week (less than $10 for the lot – you can get non-organic for less than $2 per pound) and make a huge batch of pâté. I eat it for breakfast and for lunch with pepper strips or cauliflower, and it’s super easy: Fry chopped onion and garlic until soft, add livers and cook thoroughly. Dump liver/onion/garlic mixture into the processor with a dollop of wholegrain Dijon mustard and a splash of heavy cream (optional). Super cheap and tastes beautiful. I’ll have to try adding bacon next time…

  8. OK Richard, it’s your liver!
    Try it with a wine reduction sometime-yummy!

    • Yea, I have seen a few recipes for a braise or with a reduction and in those cases I wouldn’t coat it. Perhaps I’ll try sometime. One nice thing about the coating is that leftovers are particularly tasty cold.

  9. becky yo! says:

    thanks Richard! The last time I made liver, it wasn’t such a success! I’m thinking maybe the coating will help with the texture issues that were part of my 11 year old’s reluctance to eat liver.

  10. gregandbeaker says:

    I really like the liverwurst from US Wellness meats. Liver, Heart, Kidney. Yum! I have 10 lbs of it my freezer and 3 in the fridge right now :-)

    • Yea, your own homemade liverwurst or pate or artisan products is a great way to get this nutrition. You can mix it up with build egg yolks for deviled eggs, spread it into celery, put it in lettuce wraps and whatnot. If you make it yourself you can introduce all kinds of herbs, spices or even fruit (cherries, cranberries, etc.) to give it a flavor you like.

  11. Aside from onions – which are a given with liver – a rule of thumb I use when cooking liver is: acid + herb.

    Marinating with lemon juice beforehand is good for tenderizing / mellowing the flavor a bit, but I think adding more acid at the very end of cooking is key. For the last 30 seconds of cooking or just after shutting off the heat, add some lemon juice or a nice balsamic vinegar and also a generous handful of any finely chopped fresh herb, mix and then cover for a minute or so before serving. Parsley or cilantro as well as stronger herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano all work great with beef liver. Mint seens to go well with chicken liver. (Tumeric and black pepper in addition to the acid and herb are also nice additions.)

    Also, I generally cut the liver up into approx. 1 inch x 1 inch x 1/4 inch squares before cooking rather than as a solid steak. Stir fry just long enough to give both sides of the pieces some brown color while the inside is still a bit bloody and medium rare. As it ends up slightly Asian style due to the bite sized pieces, I also tend to eat the whole thing with a bowl of rice.

    • PaleoDentist says:

      I eat liver once a week (grass fed beef or pastured chicken) I do it “old school “with onions, Thanks for the ideas, will give it a try this week!

      • Yeah, I’m a once-a-week guy with beef liver too. Following the Jaminets’ recommendation. I enjoy it anyone, so I don’t really see it as “taking my medicine” even though it is that too.

  12. Has anybody else noticed that liver cuts the heat of spicy sauces? I’ve tried sauces that overpower other dishes (yes they are very spicy), but put straight on liver, actually brings out the flavor of the sauce. There’s still heat, just not the give me uncontrollable hiccups kinda heat. Yes, that really happens.

  13. Galina L. says:

    I found the taste of lightly cooked liver in unrefined coconut oil to be surprisingly good. Sometimes I dust liver with a quinoa flower. After the liver is cooked, I take it to another plate to rest a little bit, put some cream or coconut oil on the pan where the liver was prepared, reduce it and use as a souse.

  14. What is the vitamin K2 content of liver? Is it significant?

  15. G’day, Richard. In Australia or in the UK if you walk into a butcher’s shop and ask for liver, the assumption is that you mean lamb liver. I take it from the comments above that it’s beef liver over your way. There is, however, a difference between the UK and Australia – if I ask for liver in Australia, the butcher will hand over a lamb liver; in the UK they jerk their heads in incomprehension because the only way liver is sold here is in cut strips.
    Incidentally, I get the impression that there are not many butcher’s shops in the US – am I right? It is easy in both Australia and in the UK to get meat from a local butcher in preference to a supermarket. And the supermarket I visit near here (Cambridge UK) has a full butcher’s counter as well as the plastic-wrapped, pre-cut meat.

    • Keith:

      You’ll still find butcher shops in some urban areas as well as small town rural. In between, you have your major chains with the plastic wrapped meats (you can usually ask the guys in back to do something specific or special but the selection is pretty pedestrian). All the high end markets have butcher counters with a wide selection of things. The one I go to, Lunardi’s is an enormous poultry, meat and seafood counter.

    • We’ve started a tradition whereby we have bacon, liver and onions for breakfast every Sunday. I get free-range calves liver from my butcher in Australia. Last weekend I noticed a distinct green tinge on a few slices after cooking so I took a photo and emailed it to him. He rang me at home that night to let me know the reason and was most apologetic. It seems some bile probably leaked from the bile duct when it was being sliced and that’s what caused it – wouldn’t have caused any harm – just tasted a little bitter. Talk about service!

  16. Man I love me some liver!!!

  17. Vegans making claims of “paradisical health” off of a specific way of eating are pure frauds. Pure charlatans dabbling in psuedoscience.

    Having liver is good nutrition. Humans evolved eating animals products also . There is no getting around this. Many militant vegans have a BELIEF SYSTEM. They make very poor scientists. They are in denial of genuine science. Even vegetarian anthropologists will admit humans evolved eating animals, as well as plant matter. The vegans should realize MANY plant compounds ( including plant food) are carinogenic and or dangerous to eat. Plants are NOT a panacea. All food carries *some* risk. We tread through the minefiled carefully.

    If vegans ate wild mushrooms and picked the safe ones , they still would not be safe. What if it had DEER POOP on it? The bacteria could kill you. Vegan silliness……..

    Remember that Amazonian tribe eating , sitting around the fire, roasting the spider that was literally the size of an apple pie and enjoying it. LOL !

  18. Try as I might I just can’t get into liver… my most recent attempt (about 30 minutes ago, inspired by this post) was about 4 0z of beef liver mixed with a few slices of bacon, all ground up and mixed with 2lb of ground beef and made into burgers to mask the taste. I could still taste the liver… I just can’t enjoy the taste. :(

    • I think I’m lucky because my mother fed us liver growing up. I never had to get used to it and never thought it tasted bad.

      Some people get around the taste by cutting up raw liver into small pill-sized pieces, freezing them, and then taking a few like pills every day.

    • I am the same way. Every time I try to eat liver it activates my gage reflex. I know its very nutritious and healthy but I just can’t eat it. I’m going to try eating it raw as some have suggested.

  19. I hate the taste of liver. But when I tried it raw, the liver taste was almost absent. It was like eating sushi. If sushi tasted like corn on the cob. Just skin the liver, soak it in lemon juice, and eat it when you wish. A friend from the Middle East liked to have raw liver with fresh tomato, parsley, and cilantro.

  20. Adam Litzinger says:

    I cooked liver and onions for lunch last Friday. I always see people putting flour on it before frying and you know what I did. I just fried it without anything. I cooked a bunch of onions, removed them, cooked liver and stacked the onions over them once the liver was cooked.

    Not the best chef here but just throwing this meal together always ends up tasting fantastic!

  21. Great post. I think liver is one of the most nutritious foods out there, if from a grass fed healthy cow. And how doesn’t like onions. Excellent!

  22. Richard

    You’re going to LOVE this. LOL !

    Science strongly suggests the earliest human ancestors from 4.2 million years back SKIPPED FRUIT, and went straight for nuts, insects, lots of root vegetables and MEAT when available ( oppurtunistic)

    This is exactly what myself and Urgelt have proposed. Oppurtunistic meat eaters, heavily making use of insects ( nutrient dense and protein dense) , nuts( calorie and fat dense) and root vegetables- all tremedsous nutrition easily obtained.

    Makes perfect SENSE. I wish you had access to this article before your debate etc.

    30 Bananas A Day, crackpot Douglas Graham ALL have been DEBUNKED by relatively recent gained scientific knowledge.

    Here is the article:

    http://news.discovery.com/human/human-ancestor-diet-nuts.html#view-comments

    This is my Christmas present to those fruitarian LOONS.

    Take care,
    Raz

  23. Here’s the next post, this on beef and chicken liver pate.

    http://freetheanimal.com/2011/12/beef-and-chicken-liver-pate.html

  24. I had no idea until recently that people cooked liver in flour. It seems really bizarre to me, but it’s probably more bizarre I’ve gone my whole life and not known that.

    I’ve always cooked liver with bacon (2/5 Bacon, 3/5 Liver). Obviously everything is better with bacon, but bacon actually really complements the liver in both taste and texture.

  25. golooraam says:

    Thanks Richard!

    gonna try this tonight with goat liver I got in Berkeley – super excited!

    thanks for all the great tips and inspiration

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