Written by Foy of Foy Update – Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat.
I know liver is healthy but I’d never made it before or even eaten it. I wanted to know if liver was easy to prepare and if it tasted good.
I am happy to report that liver is a cinch to cook; only taking 30 minutes. And while it did not taste like any meat or beef I have had before, it was good.
The texture of liver is often what people comment on. Liver is the texture of the yolk of a hard-boiled egg mixed with fine grit. That doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it does taste good in a soft meat kind of way.
In the same way an egg yolk is rich, so is liver. A little acid from lemon helps cut the fat.
We enjoyed ours with a side of sauteed kale and polenta with our liver and onions. Broccoli, tomatoes, coleslaw or green beans would all make excellent sides depending on the time of year.
The Wahls Diet
The Wahls diet was developed by a research medical doctor, Dr. Terry Wahls at the University of Iowa, to treat her own multiple sclerosis. When all the latest drugs and therapies failed her and she had deteriorated to living in a tilt recline wheel chair because her spine could not support her weight she went back to basics.
Dr. Wahls asked herself what does a body need to build and maintain healthy neurons? Perhaps it wasn’t bad genes or some unknown toxin exposure in her past that was causing her multiple sclerosis symptoms. Perhaps it was inadequate nutrition.
She gave up the Standard American Diet and created her own with directed nutrition. Within months she could walk with a cane and soon unassisted. Nine months later she could ride her bike. It was nothing short of miraculous. That was in 2008.
Since she has given a very successful TEDx talk called Minding My Mitochondria and started The Wahls Foundation to do further research and spread the knowledge that it is not just health and nutrition, but that nutrition is health.
The Wahls Diet in a nutshell:
As you can see once a week you should eat organ meat. Organs contain nutrients including high levels of creatine and carnitine; two extremely important nutrients for healing the mitochondria.
Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck as well as the Weston A. Price Foundation both strongly recommend liver in the diet for nursing mothers, babies and children.
Improving the Health of the Recipe
I had never cooked an organ meat before, so I decided to make one of the classic, tried and true organ meat dishes: liver and onions.
I turned to my favorite cookbook publisher Cook’s Illustrated. In their Italian Classics is a recipe for Sautéed Calf’s Liver and Onions. I did a little tweaking to make it fit into the Wahls Diet.
- Replaced non-stick with stainless steel skillet – Cook’s Illustrated suggested a non-stick pan, however using a non-stick pan over high heat can cause the tephlon or similar coatings to release PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) which could be bad for health. Reducing toxin load is one of the goals of the Wahls Diet, so I opted for stainless steel. Cast iron would also be a reasonable option I would think.
- Replaced olive oil with coconut oil and butter with clarified butter- Cook’s Illustrated also suggests using olive oil with that high heat. The Wahls Foundation shared on their FaceBook page “Coconut oil is ok for heating, clarified butter (removes proteins) and rendered animal fats all ok for heating. All others cold. Heating food at high temps damages vitamins, antioxidants, takes away compounds your cells wanted to use.”
- Replaced locally raised cow liver for calf liver – finding a local farmer I trust to raise hormone free, grass-fed liver is more important to me than how young the animal was when slaughtered. I buy from a local farmer who raises cows to about a year or two old. The farm sells their meat frozen at their farm stand. They often have heart, tongue and liver in stock. Anyone have a recipe for those?
- Replaced table salt with sea salt so that it will count towards the 1 teaspoon a day of minerals. Sea salt has iodine, zinc and other trace nutrients that straight salt lacks.
Here’s the recipe. It’s quick and easy and incredibly healthy! Get your four ounces of organ meat a week!
I should also tell you, if you are a first time liver cook like me, liver smells strange. I was worried when I took it out of its package and it smelled acrid. I thought maybe it had gone bad, so I Googled what liver is supposed to smell like and apparently that’s right. Uncooked liver is a sharp smell. I even saw one person describe the odor as rotten. So don’t worry if your liver smells weird. It will cook up fine if you treated it like any other meat product.
An Odd Bits Recipe - A nutrient dense recipe for liver and onions.
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted clarified butter (also known as ghee)
- 3 medium onions, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
- Sea salt
- 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices grass-fed cow liver (about 1 pound)
- Ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- In a large heavy cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat melt 2 tablespoons coconut oil with 1 tablespoon clarified butter. When the skillet is very hot add the onions and a ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Sauté until the water starts to come out of the onions and they get limp and glassy about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking another 10-15 minutes until they are lightly browned. Put them a side on a plate and return the skillet to the stove.
- Over high heat add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil. Meanwhile salt and pepper the liver generously. When the fats are starting to shimmer add the liver to the pan. Don’t over crowd the liver. You don’t want the slices to touch in the pan. If needed do multiple batches. Cook the liver for 60-90 seconds. You want to get a dark brown sear around the edge. Flip and cook for a slightly shorter time until the other side is browned as well. The hot fast cooking keeps the liver from getting grey and pasty. Take the liver out of the pan and set it aside.
- Return the onions with the parsley to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Add last 2 tablespoons of clarified butter. Then add the lemon juice and use a wooden spatula to deglaze the pan. Most of the liquid from the juice will cook off quickly. Place the liver and onions on a plate together and serve immediately.
Does your family eat organ meats? I’d love to see your recipes and ideas. Please share in the comments!