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Liver! Eating the Offal

Pastured Pork Liver and Carmelized Green Onion Over Lemon Grains
Smooth, rich, briny, savory, mmmmmm! Liver! Yes my friends, liver.  I know that many of you have had a traumatizing run in or two with the mushy non-muscle as kids - luckily I never did and so I headed into my first encounter hoping it would taste just like pate (I’m serious).  And it did!  Well...similar - very delicious with that guttural mmm! inducing taste that you only get from naughty things like bacon, pate, and pork shank (mmm!).  I’m a recent convert so you'll just have to deal with my enthusiasm.

Ever since we finished the left-overs of my liver experiment a few days ago I’ve been craving it!  My counterpart Scrapple, on the other hand, hasn’t been obsessed, but he did enjoy it.  There’s obviously a reason this organ has been prized throughout history by everyone from roman warriors to the beloved Julia Child.  It's reputed to be a miracle food - high in vitamins and minerals and possessing some very unique qualities in addition to its addictive flavor.  

Just 3oz of raw liver has over 100% of  your daily value of Vitamins A and B12, but also around 40% of your DV for Riboflavin and iron.  Just check out this nutrition comparison of pork liver and pork chop.
Liver is a powerhouse organ, performing over 500 different functions. Most importantly, it filters about 1.5 quarts of blood per minute, or about 540 gallons of blood per day. Every day your liver metabolizes the food you eat, breaking down fats, carbohydrates and proteins into accessible nutrients your body can use.  It also cleans your blood.  I had always mistakenly thought of liver as a sort of trap-style filter, like our dustbuster. I thought it stored all the nasty stuff - why would you ever want to eat that!? Contrary to popular belief, the liver doesn’t actually store the toxins that it filters (and here’s where the liver magic happens) it transforms them! Using enzymes it has produced, toxins are broken down and altered into something that can safely be eliminated by your body.  What it does store are vitamins and minerals.  When the body needs them, the liver releases them into the bloodstream.  As for the benefits of eating liver, I’ve read everything from increased energy, muscle growth, brain power and libido to the mysterious, undefined “anti fatigue factor”. Are you ready to dig in!?

First - make sure you get the good stuff!  
grassfed cows on pasture, sprout creek farm, poughkeepsie cheese
Grassfed cows
It is important that you only eat liver from animals that have been raised on pasture in a healthy environment without hormones, corn and soy based commercial feed, or antibiotics.  Pastured animal products, including the offal, are much higher in nutrients and have higher quality fats than their factory farmed cousins.  They’re also living as they should in a natural and humane environment, eating what their bodies were made to digest, and acting as they would naturally - free to express their nature as opposed to being confined to a pen too small to turn around in. Along with supporting a move away from factory farming, you’ll also be supporting local farmers and the environment with your choices!

For my first experiment I looked at the recipes from Nourishing Traditions and then improvised a bit to include what I had on hand at the moment.  I already had a gorgeous pastured pork liver from Lewis Waite Farm.  Onions and bacon are apparently two huge “do’s” for liver and I had both - the bacon from Arcadian Pastures was already open and needing to be finished off and 2 green onions from our CSA pick up last weekend. Oregano and sage exploding in our window boxes begged to be harvested and made it into the mix as well. I didn’t feel quite ready to have liver be the only solid on my plate, so I added a bed of lemon farro.  I think this would also be amazing over pasta.  More experiments to come with the other parts - today is liver’s day!

Pastured Pork Liver and Carmelized Green Onion Over Lemon Grains 

For Four
1 pastured pork liver, sliced horizontally into ¼” strips
6 oz smoked bacon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp whole wheat or spelt flour
1 cup pastured half and half
½ cup dry white wine
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green onion, quartered
1 tbsp fresh origano
2 tbsp fresh sage
2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
s&p to taste
1 lemon, grate zest and juice
2 cups farro
2 tbsp pastured butter
  1. 1 hour before you want to start cooking, place the sliced liver in the juice of the lemon to soak, turning every 15 minutes.  Sally Fallon writes in Nourishing Traditions that “this draws out impurities and gives a nicer texture”.
  2. Boil farro in lightly salted water for 40 minutes, strain, and season with 1 tbsp butter and lemon rind.  Set aside.
  3. Heat about 1 tbsp EVOO and 1 tbsp pastured butter in the pan and add bacon and green onion.  
  4. Cook green onion quarters on each side for a few minutes until caramelized, remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add chopped onion and garlic to pan and cook until the onions soften, then remove from pan with a slotted spoon - keeping the cooking fats in the pan.
  6. Add liver slices and cook on medium until seared outside and light pink in the center only (cut one to check) and then remove from the pan.
  7. Return the onion, garlic, bacon mixture to the pan and then remove from heat. Sprinkle flour over the mixture in pan, stirring to absorb the fats and create a roux.
  8. Slowly add the stock, whisking as you add to avoid lumps in the sauce.
  9. Return to heat and add half and half and wine.  Season with chopped sage and oregano and cook down until the sauce coats the back of a spoon, stirring often.  
  10. Chop the liver slices into 1/4" slivers
  11.  Season with salt and pepper and then place the liver back in the pan with the sauce, sprinkle with remaining lemon zest and simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  12.  Make a bed of farro and top with liver, sauce, and a carmelized green onion.

Enjoy!  Let me know how it goes and pass on your own liver recipes!  I leave you with some liver loving.
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