I’m currently kickin’ it in Costa Rica, so most of my meals over the past few days have included fresh fish, avocado, lime juice, and mango. Look for a post later this week with some appropriately tropical meal ideas and maybe a new recipe or two. For now, here’s the result of my beef liver experiment from last week. Be open minded, and you’ll be rewarded.
For months, a package had taunted me from the freezer in the studio where we keep our Meat Stash™. Wrapped in white paper, the package was about 4×16 inches, maybe half an inch thick. A piece of masking tape said “Beef Liver” in black Sharpie. Whenever I went in the freezer for wild boar ribs or Lava Lake ground lamb or grassfed ground beef, that little package practically gave me the finger and said, I know you’re scared of me.
So I did what any reasonable person would do: I picked it up and literally buried it under the other packages of frozen meat.
Because that white-wrapped package was right! I was a little scared of it.
I’d never cooked beef liver in my life, and I really didn’t know what to do with it. I’m a big fan of chicken livers (especially crispy, spicy ones), and I remember eating beef liver at my dad’s restaurant when I was a kid. But somewhere along the way to almost-44, I got squeamish about beef liver. I was concerned that inside that package, I would find a giant organ. I was worried about the texture once it was cooked. And honestly, handling raw liver from any animal is not on my list of favorite things to do.
But everyone was so adamant at PaleoFX that liver is a big deal — and my ego couldn’t really deal with that thin, white-wrapped package getting the best of me. I turned to Cook’s Illustrated for guidance and, as always, Chris Kimball‘s gang did not let me down. I basically followed their recipe for sautéed liver with just three minor changes: I cut the amount of total fat in half because their measurements seemed excessive to me; I swapped ghee and coconut oil in for their recommended butter and olive oil; and I doubled the amount of parsley.
The results were very, very good. My grassfed, local beef liver was mild, sweet, and tender — and the parsley-onions, with just the right touch of lemon, are a bright, welcome contrast to the dark, richness of the liver. If you’re at all curious about trying beef liver, I think this is a good entry-level recipe, and bonus! it takes very little time and no major cooking skills to prepare.
And see? It just looks like lovely meat. Sorry to be so judgmental, beef liver!
Beef Liver With Parsley-Onions & Lemon
Prep 5 min. | Cook 15 min. | Serves 2-4 | Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Italian Classics “Sautéed Calf’s Liver and Onions”
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon clarified, grassfed, organic butter (I use this ghee.)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound of calf, beef, or lamb liver, cut into slices about 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup parsley, minced
salt & pepper
NOTE: If you don’t have ghee, use all coconut oil or your preferred fat.
1. Place 1 tablespoon clarified butter eat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix with a wooden spoon so the onions are evenly coated in the fat; sauté about 5 minutes until they release their juice. Reduce heat to medium and cook until browned and soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the onions to a bowl and save for later.
2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon coconut oil; heat until shimmering. Sprinkle the liver generously with salt and pepper, then lay the pieces flat in the pan in a single layer. Try to leave a little breathing room around them and cook in two batches, if necessary. Cook undisturbed for 60-90 seconds, until the first side is browned around the edges. Flip each piece with tongs and cook the second side, 60-90 seconds, until browned on the edges. Remove the liver to a plate while you finish the onions.
3. Place 1 tablespoon ghee in the hot pan, along with the cooked onions, parsley, and lemon juice. Stir with a wooden spoon and sauté until hot.
4. To serve, place the liver on a plate and mound the caramelized parsley-onions on top.
A Few Words About the Potential Ooginess of Raw Liver
I’m not going to bullsh*t you: It’s pretty gross. The texture is… blobby… and the counter, any utensils that touch it, and your hands might look like you committed a murder in your kitchen. I believe this is a good thing. We are too far removed from our food, and it’s important to remember that meat comes from animals fulfilling their purpose with grace so we can eat. My liver was from a cow that lived a happy life eating grass before it was my turn to eat it. But all that understanding of the food chain and respect for nature does not minimize the fact that it is somewhat gnarly to handle raw liver.
Here’s my strategy: I look at the raw liver and touch the raw liver as little as possible. Today, I unwrapped it, placed it in a shallow bowl, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, then covered the bowl with a paper towel. I washed my hands and worked on the onions. When it was time to cook the liver, I lifted the paper towel and used tongs to place the liver in the pan. I didn’t watch it cook — I stood at the counter next to the stove with a timer running for 90 seconds while I flipped through a magazine.
My liver was already cut into strips, so if you can talk the butcher or the farmer where you’re buying your liver, maybe you can have them cut it into slices so you don’t have to. Unless you’re really into the whole butcher thing, then by all means: go for it!
A Few Words About Cooked Liver
It’s very rich, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t eat it multiple meals in a row. In my house, I’m the only one who eats liver, so I try to cook only 1/2 pound at a time — two meals worth. Any more than that, it goes to waste because as much as I enjoy liver when I’m eating it, I can’t build up an appetite for it more than once or twice a week. The good news is that raw liver holds up well in the freezer, so if you want to, you can easily cut the recipe above in half.
More (Maybe) Weird Recipes That Taste Super Good…
Dave is funny. He is our official food photographer. When the photos look good (like the one above), it means he took it. If the color is off and it only sorta looks like food, I took it. Anyway… he’s not a fan of liver in any form: paté, coated and fried, sautéed with onions… they’re all out. This is a screen cap of my email today after our liver photo shoot:
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