Liver and Onions
Liver and onions is as deliciously old-fashioned as it gets, and in truth is simply straight-up farmer firepower. Fried up for your pleasure and propulsion. While not only a traditional Irish dinner, this liver recipe is even in the liverphobic day and age a common main on Erin’s Isle. And there are convincing reasons for this: liver tastes good and is inexpensive.
However, the fact that liver is good for you is the biggest pull factor. Extraordinarily good for you, that is. Old-fashioned liver recipes like this one remind us that while the potato was the nutrient bomb of the very poor, offal meat often played this role for those who could afford to eat it regularly. Because, loaded with iron and other minerals and vitamins, the nutritional value of liver is simply sky-high.
This recipe for liver and onions in gravy is also ideal for people who hate liver. The Worcester sauce and lemon juice bring a zesty lightness to the hearty main ingredient, while the tomato gravy blunts any remaining edges. Just like the similarly hearty recipe for Dublin coddle, the traditional recipe is quite flexible, with variants using different types of liver. And after you’ve done it once, you’ll know how to cook liver and onions with whatever kind of liver you’ve got.
Simple and versatile liver recipe
As with similar Irish dishes, lamb liver traditionally held pride of place in this recipe, or beef liver. But use whatever you can find, in a world with an ever-dwindling offal offering. We’ve gone for pork liver, looking to facilitate some final moments of stove solidarity with the back bacon rashers we’ve also steered into the pan.
Pork liver is also the most iron-rich offal meat, weighing in at a whopping 23 milligrams of iron per 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving. Meaning that just one 3.5-ounce serving easily covers the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of iron for a female aged 19 to 50 years, and provides nearly three times the RDI for an adult male.
If you’re trying to work offal into your diet as part of your recuperation path following illness, do some research on what type of offal meat best suits your needs. The beef liver nutritional info speaks for itself, as it contains over twice as much iron as nearly any other cut of cow. Making beef liver recipes instead of steak might also be a relatively painless way to help your progress.
But find a type of offal meat that you can stick to eating regularly. And which you can actually get your hands on. Depending on where you live, goat liver may be more easily available, and its iron content is in the same range as beef liver. Through nature’s genius, eating organs is also great if you’re trying to heal your own organs.
If you can get your hands on organic, hormone-free liver, do of course go for that – the organ’s function is of course to filter and cleanse, so it tends to accumulate some unsavory cells. Grass-fed beef liver is a top-class food of any type. With offal meat, following the old adage ‘the fresher, the better’ is particularly important as it degrades quickly. It won’t last more than 3-4 days in the fridge, so purchase it as fresh as possible.
If you think you mightn’t get around to cooking it in time, it’s best to take action as early as possible. You can freeze liver and if you put it in fresh it’s actually quite well-suited to freezing – liver will remain at its optimum for up to 4 months in the freezer.
Cooking the bacon and onions
More accurately described, this recipe is for liver and onions with bacon. Let’s do things in reverse order…
Dice your lovely Irish Bacon into (not too) small bits, cutting each back bacon rasher into 4 or 5 pieces is perfect. Melt a knob of Butter, or a dollop of Olive Oil, in a Skillet over Medium Heat and Add the Bacon. Fry the bacon until it has become nice and crispy. Once it’s done, remove it from the pan, leaving the fat behind. Set aside the bacon bits and keep warm.
Then take a Sharp Knife and Slice your Onions into rings. Cut them reasonably thin, but no need to overdo it. Add the Onions to the pan and Cook in the bacon fat on Medium Heat for about 10 minutes. Add more Butter/Olive Oil if the departing bacon hasn’t left too much drippings behind. Onions typically accompany liver as they cut the metallic taste that puts many off eating it. The onions should be translucent by the time you Remove them from heat and Set Aside in a warm place.
Now to get the liver in there..
Offal meat is full-on in taste, so most recipes will suggest you treat the liver beforehand. Some soak it in milk for a couple of hours, or coat it in flour. Both work fine, but for a liver recipe without flour, and which is dairy-free (if you stick to olive oil as your lubricant), use something acidic.
Vinegar, lime juice, etc. all do a really great job of taking off that hard liver edge. In this case, we made a simple marinade from the Juice of 1 Lemon, 1 Tbsp Worcester Sauce, and Salt and Pepper. We let the pork liver sit in the mixture for several hours before cooking. For any diners that usually hate liver, this will also give the offal a nice distracting zing!
Make sure to Inspect the liver before you cut it for the marinade, Removing any fat that the butcher may have left intact. Once you’ve Washed the offal and Patted it dry, Dice it into bite-sized chunks, about an inch thick. Cutting it into chunks rather than slices will mean there’s lots of space inside for the flesh to stay soft and a little pinkish. The chunks should be relatively equal in size as liver cooks very quickly, so smaller chunks may easily become overcooked.
Add some more butter or olive oil to your pan and increase the heat to High. Even better, if you have a Wok, use that instead. Sprinkle the chunks of offal with a little more Salt and Black Pepper. Then, once the pan has reached temperature, add the liver and quickly Stir Fry.
Stirred briskly like this, cooking liver is quite a rapid process. With pork liver, it will not take longer than 2 minutes. Once you see that the liver pieces have turned medium brown in color, remove them immediately. There’s no need to cook the liver right through, as there’s a lovely softness to biting into perfectly tender liver.
And having them a little soft inside is far more preferable than wrapping your teeth around the bitter bullets that even just another couple of minutes would produce. Set the offal meat aside in a nice cozy place (with adequate lighting and plentiful sources of entertainment, somewhere you could imagine spending your last minutes on the planet).
Scrape any bits that have become stuck to the pan and Pour in the plain Tomato Purée. You want to boil the living daylights out of the sauce, so leave the heat on high. Just make sure to occasionally Stir and Scrape in the edges of the sauce. You can also Add a glass of Red Wine, if you’re into burning off perfectly good alcohol like that.
After 5 minutes of Furious Boiling, Stir in 2 Tbsp of Worcester Sauce, a Pinch of Black Pepper, and a couple of Squeezes of Lemon. Keep on boiling, for another 5 Minutes. The sauce should have become nice and thick. Once 10 minutes is up, Knock off the heat and Stir in the Liver, Bacon and Onions you’ve set aside.
Serve straight away, Adding more salt and pepper according to taste.
Liver and onions makes for a hearty Irish dinner by itself. But in other parts of the world, like North Africa, liver is mostly served as an appetizer. But mega portions aside, it’s hard to imagine you’ll be left unfulfilled after a serious soup to start you off and a plate of this nutrient bomb. Or skip the soup in exchange for a balanced (and aesthetically pleasing) plate, with Mashed Potato and Greens of your choice.
Now relax and sit down to eat, knowing that by choosing liver you’re doing your body a true (flavor) favor – despite what your eyes saw when you started cooking! Because the secret recipe of liver and onions is of course possessing beauty and positivity in the only place it really matters: on the inside.
Ingredients for Liver and Onions
- 4 Back Bacon Rashers (5 oz/150 g)
- 24 oz (680 g) Onion
- 1 1/3 lbs (600 g) pig’s Liver (or lamb’s, cow’s)
- 18 oz (500 g) Tomato Purée
- 3 Tbsp Worcester Sauce
- [1 glass of Wine (red)]
- Juice of 1 Lemon for the marinade, and a little more for the sauce
- Butter/Olive Oil for frying
- Salt & Black Pepper
[ ] optional
- Chop the liver into evenly sized chunks and leave to marinade in 1 Tbsp Worcester sauce, Salt and Pepper, and the Juice of 1 Lemon for several hours.
- Chop the Back Bacon into bits (4/5 pieces per rasher) and Fry until crispy in a Skillet lubricated with Butter or Olive Oil, over medium heat. Set aside and keep warm, leaving the drippings.
- Slice the Onions into rings. Sauté the onions in the bacon fat for 10 minutes. Set aside (keep warm).
- Add Butter/Olive Oil to Skillet (or Wok) and Briskly Stir Fry the Liver over High Heat. Set aside and keep warm.
- Boil the Tomato Purée for 10 minutes. Halfway through, Add 2 Tbsp Worcester Sauce, Pepper and a little Lemon Juice. Stir occasionally and Scrape free any sauce that sticks.
- Remove the pan from heat and Stir in the bacon, onions and liver you’ve set aside. Serve ASAP (As Soon As Pronto).