My most unpleasant pleasure

Hungry, grouchy, and yet feeling like I wanted to cook something, I dropped by the grocer on my way home from work today and picked up a little something for dinner. I was craving something comfortable and indulging; two things that are generally NOT on my current dietary plan. I did find something to cook, something to satiate a sudden craving, and while it isn’t exactly on the diet, it’s not as bad as most of the alternatives. Besides, liver was on special.

Liver has to be one of the most¬†nutritious foodstuffs for the least amount of money. It was something like $1.75/lb. Now I like liver, but it sure as hell ain’t for everyone. First off, it’s meat, which isn’t on a lot of people’s plans these days. But hell, if you’re going to eat animals, it makes sense to eat the cheap, nutritious, otherwise-wasted parts of the animal with as much enthusiasm as you’d eat any of the other parts. Second, it’s gross to handle, prepare, and cook. Good liver is firm and moist, not runny and/or slimy, but even the best cut of liver is suspiciously close to nothing more than a half-congealed scab on your cutting board. Gross. But hey, if you’re going to eat animals, you might as well “man up” and get used to handling these things yourself, or just quit meat altogether.

Anyways, here’s how I go about preparing a mess of liver:

  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/2 lb fresh liver
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tbs butter
  • salt and pepper

Lay out your slab of liver. I say slab, because that’s how it usually comes packed; as a thick slice or two taken right across the organ itself. Yes, it will be quivering and slimy, but it should have some substance (more than a red puddle), and shouldn’t be oozing blood-sludge all over the cutting board. If you are freaking out about whatever fluid may be escaping from the mass, go ahead and wash it, but be aware that this is largely as effective as washing sponge full of jell-o; if you wash hard enough to get all the gack out, you won’t be left with anything at all. Slice the slab on a long bias to produce neat square-sectioned strips. This will require a sharp slicing blade and no reluctance on your part about firmly grasping the liver with your other hand.

In a wide and shallow bowl, deposit the flour, then liberally salt and pepper to your taste, then blend with a fork.

Peel the onion and slice in half, then thinly slice across the rings… we want stringy confetti-like pieces here. Heat up 1 tbs of butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and fry the onions until limp, translucent, and just starting to brown up (this will happen pretty fast). Remove the onions from the pan to a stand-by bowl.

Return the pan to the heat, and turn it up a bit more. Notice the lovely scum left in the pan by the onions. Drop in another tbs of butter, then turn back to the liver. Grab a handful of strips, roll them around in the flour to lightly coat all sides, then shake the excess off of each on and place in the hot butter.¬†Depending on how you’ve cut the beastie up, you may want to do this is 1-3 small batches. The key is to keep the heat up and not crowd the pieces in the pan; too many pieces with too great a drop in heat, and you get sludge.

Do. Not. Over. Cook. Liver, for all it’s nastiness, is a delicate product. The hot pan, the butter, and the flour will crisp up the exterior, but otherwise cook it as you would a delicate fish; just enough to set the flesh and quell the jiggle. If cooking in batches, place each finished batch into the container holding the onions. When all the liver is done, return the whole mess to the pan for one last quick toss’n’mingle, then straight onto a plate for immediate consumption.

Other people will have you get all fancy with sauces, bacon, or bacon sauces. Forget it. Clean, fresh, and not the shoe-leather consistency your mother made it, good liver doesn’t need much else.

  1. Jennilyn’s avatar

    Yuck. Good for you! I clearly remember eating liver as a kid. My Mum and Dad knew how to cook it properly, basically just as you have described. I hated the smell of it, I hated the look of it and I hated the taste of it. But I had no choice….I wonder if that has contributed to my aversion to red meat in my 20’s and 30’s…..

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