Why is it that being a health nut seems to mean popping random overseas ingredients? Gogi berries, avocadoes, quinoa? I find it troubling (and judge-y) that people don’t believe that they can eat healthy by looking to their own backyards.
When I think about health food, I think about the things that my mother told me would “put hair on my chest”. Foods for strength. Foods that are eaten when you don’t feel so good and need a boost.
Traditionally, liver is considered a health food in Eastern Europe. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin B12, and iron. It also contains more protein by caloric amount and weight than a steak. Funnily enough, these nutrients are all frequently taken as supplements – especially by women.
For those who think they have an aversion to liver, I highly recommend giving delicate calf’s liver a chance and soaking it in milk beforehand. Liver is like a sponge and the dairy helps to mellow the flavour. The lactic acid in the milk also helps to tenderize the meat. Here I have served liver with cabbage and kasha, but you can sub in whatever vegetable and starch you like to complete the dish.
Liver and Onions with Burnt Honey and Apple Cider Reduction
2 lbs calf’s liver, portioned in four
5 large yellow onions, sliced
3/4 cup apple cider
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup honey
2 cups milk
flour, for dusting
butter and oil, for frying
a few sprigs of thyme
2 cloves garlic, smashed
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the liver in a shallow dish and pour the milk over it to cover. Set aside.
To caramelize the onions, place a large, heavy bottomed pot over low heat. Melt 4 tbsp. butter. Add the sliced onions and stir to coat with butter. After 2-3 minutes, sprinkle generously with salt. This will cause a lot of water to come out of the onions. Continue to cook the onions over low heat,. stirring occasionally, until very brown and caramelized, about an hour to 90 minutes. Whenever your onions start to stick to the bottom of the pot, just add a spoonful of water to loosen them.
In the meantime, place a small sauce pot over low heat. Add the honey. Cook gently, without stirring, until the honey turns dark amber and bubbles. Pour in the chicken stock and apple cider and stir well to loosen the honey from the bottom of the pot. Reduce over low heat until just about 1/4 of the liquid remains. Season to taste with salt.
Once the onions are done cooking, remove the liver from the milk. Pat with paper towel to remove excess moisture. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with flour (do not dredge).
Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle in a few tablespoons of oil. Throw in the thyme and the smashed garlic. Gently place the liver in the pan. Sear on both sides, basting in the thyme and garlic infused oil all the while. Cook to desired doneness — medium all the way to well done is acceptable for liver.
Plate with the onions, whatever vegetables and starch you want, and drizzle with the apple cider reduction.