The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

LIOLI-2 Like it or Loathe it – 2: Liver

liver loafAh yes, the organ meats. Offal. We’ve talked about this before, haven’t we? Well, then, this will be a sequel within a sequel, for the topic of M.R.’s LIOLI-2 (Like it or Loathe it) challenge is … liver.

Since I left home thirty-five years ago, I may have eaten liver two or three times, tops. I never prepared it in my kitchen, however. Most likely a dining companion recommended the daily special and I might have been feeling a tad anemic, so, why not? The experience? Unremarkable at best.

This past Christmas we decided to no longer eat factory farmed meat. Liver will not be on the menu for me at all, regardless of how much I enjoy it.

But that is not the whole story behind my apathy toward the food.

Liver is one of those cuts that needs to be cooked just so; that is, barely warmed through. The quality of the meat is critical to the tenderness, as is the thickness of the slice.

Mom overlooked these points in her kitchen. She could afford only cheap cuts that were thinly sliced to feed our family of five. Her preparation technique was almost in line with Julia Child’s (see recipe below) but she fried those slices to within an inch of their life. Not an appropriate metaphor, I’ll admit, but you get the idea.

On our plates, the meat curled up like dried old leather with a texture and taste to match. And here’s where the fun really began.

Of the assorted “delicacies” that were served in our house, liver was the most palatable. The trouble, though, was the grisly bits.  More often than not, a good portion of the meat was spat out onto the plate. But not before we received permission to do so! By now we had learned the perils of refusing to eat what was placed before us.

The one member of our family that had the most difficulty was Dad. Howard wore false teeth up, and all but his front lower teeth were removed. Chewing was a chore.

So, there we sat. A marathon of mastication and grinding molars. Dad’s temper slowly climbed as the meal progressed. On occasion, mom would silently reach over to take Dad’s portion and give him hers. Other times, he threw down his fork and left the table. We sat and watched him leave, eyes wide and jaws working away on our food.


You may recall Julia Powell of Julia and Julia fame. In her latest book Cleaving, she includes a recipe for the “other” Julia’s sautéed calf’s liver. The link will take you to a printable version, with variations.

Here is the master recipe for a simple sauté of calf’s liver, which cooks hardly more than a minute on each side. Overcooked liver is gray, dry, and disappointing—perfectly sautéed, it is a rosy pink when you cut into it.

Yield : 4 servings

4 slices or about 1 pound top-quality calf’s liver sliced ½ inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup or so flour in a plate
3 tablespoons clarified butter, or butter and light olive oil or peanut oil
Suggested Special Equipment:
A heavy 10-inch frying pan, no-stick recommended


The moment before sautéing, season the liver on both sides with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set the frying pan over high heat and film with 1/16 inch of clarified butter or butter and oil. When very hot, lay in the liver and sauté 1 minute on each side.

When is it done?:

It should be barely springy when pressed with your finger, and a deep pinky red when you cut into a piece. Serve as is, or try one of the suggestions that follow.


This post inspired by LIOLI – 2 Like it or Loathe it, the Sequel




Categories: Food, Mom and Dad

Tags: , , ,

23 replies

  1. I laughed like a drain, Maggie !!! – the mental image conjured up is truly marvellous. THANKS !!!


  2. You completely captured a deeply buried memory with a single sentence.
    “A marathon of mastication and grinding molars”
    Oh my goodness! Just when I thought I’d left liver behind forever. Thanks for sharing! This made me smile 🙂


  3. I like liver as paté, period.


  4. You do have a way with words. And I have been trying to figure out how I can make some sort of comment and then say, “And what am I? Chopped Liver?!” but alas, I cannot. So I’ll just say that being Jewish, chopped liver and onions on rye bread was something my grandma made and i have no idea whether it was the freshness of her bread or just the fact that eating at “nana’s house” was such a treat but I have the fondest of memories for that food. And yes, I am moderately to severely anemic but when I go in restaurant or deli around here and order it, it continuously disappoints. Thanks for vivid trigger. Your posts always evoke something for me! Either a glimpse into your life or a memory of my own!


  5. My mother was a big fan of cooking tongue. My stomach was not.

    Great post! And I love that poster. Mmmmm. E-Z serve liver loaf. Drool.


  6. Reading your post I immediately remembered the sinews in liver and how it was to swallow too big a bite with grisly stuff in it.


  7. It’s good to read such a descriptive piece and to hear that liver can be enjoyed if it is cooked rarely.
    It would still take a lot of courage for me to try it! Thanks for the lovely piece though!


  8. I haven’t had any liver in years, but I used to love it. Julia fixed it all wrong, however. A serving needs to be equal parts liver, bacon, and onions.


  9. Congratulations on your win 🙂


  10. LOL – it seems we all have the mom who thought all meat needed to be “very well done” – and vegetables were over-soft. I have to admit that I was the kid who would eat anything – even shoe-leather-meat. When meal time came, I was starving and didn’t care how much I needed to chew.
    I was one of those odd kids who liked organ meat – but thanks to Mr Science who decided I needed a detailed biology lesson on the function of these internal organs, I’ve lost my appetite for them.
    Actually, I’m finding the older I get, the pickier I am about my food.


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