Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

There’s some truth in “You just never had it cooked right”: Liver & onions

with 2 comments

I had a hankering for beef liver and onions since glancing again at my lab results and seeing that the hemoglobin and red blood cell count were a little low: hemoglobin 134 (desirable range 135-170) and RBC 4.17 (range 4.20-5.40). So I got some, and cooked it tonight, The Wife being out watching the Golden Globes.

As I made and cooked the meal and observed what I did, I saw several ways in which I could have cooked it wrong and gotten a dry, tough result. So I offer here how to cook it right.

Use a cast-iron skillet. Cast iron has enormously greater heat capacity than other metals, and it also emits more radiative heat than stainless steel, so cooking certain things just works better in a cast-iron skillet. (I was using my Field Company No. 8 which I like a lot.) Examples of when I automatically reach for my cast-iron skillet: sautéing onions to the point of their being well caramelized; shrimp; veggies that I want to sort of give a roasted effect on the stove top; chicken hearts; and steak, of course. And beef liver.

Here’s the key info:

Stainless steel has an emissivity of around .07. Even when it’s extremely hot, you can put your hand close to it and not feel a thing. Only the food directly in contact with it is heating up in any way.

Cast iron, on the other hand, has a whopping .64 emissivity rating, which means that when you’re cooking in it, you’re not just cooking the surface in contact with the metal, but you’re cooking a good deal of food above it as well. This makes it ideal for things like making hash or pan roasting chicken and vegetables.

Given its heat capacity, cast iron also takes a long time to heat up, so start that before you do any prep. Pre-heat oven to 200ºF, with skillet in the oven.

For more information on the tech specs of cast iron, see this excellent post.

1/2 large red onion, halved vertically and sliced thinly across the grain

Take the skillet out and put it on a burner set to medium-low—roughly, midway between medium and low, and then take that halfway to the “low” setting.

The skillet already contains a lot of heat. You just want to maintain it, perhaps heat it up a bit more, but not a lot. For the onions to caramelize properly, they must cook slowly and for a long time.

Pour about 1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (the real stuff) into the hot skillet and immediately add the onions (which is why you have them already chopped: you want them into the pan before the heat degrades the olive oil).

Put a good pinch of kosher salt over them and let them cook stirring occasionally. Here I do other things, like clean up and put away whatever needs that attention.

Eventually the onions will begin to darken. Add the beef liver at that point.

Here’s what you want: you want to cook the liver relatively slowly for a long time. This is not a quick-fry thing. Slow and steady heat will cook through the liver without overcooking the exterior (and thus no toughness). Patience helps a lot here: not a meal to be cooked when you’re famished.

I put a pinch of Maldon salt on the liver, with a bit on the onions. No pepper, for some reason.

Extremely tasty with a glass of Chilean red wine.

Beef liver is high in purines, so it will be interesting to see whether I have a gout flare-up. My theory is that I just overdosed on purines from canned fish, and now that I’ve cut way back on that, and continued to hydrate well, I have some room for an occasional high-purine food. And I’m thinking of beef liver fortnightly.

Written by Leisureguy

6 January 2019 at 5:32 pm

2 Responses

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  1. I remember my days in the U.S. Army, 1961 to 1963. “All the troops” hated liver and onions, read: liver! When that was scheduled many guys wouldn’t even show up at the mess hall. They would eat junk food at the PX or elsewhere, Liver and onions was the most unpopular dish, even more so than the infamous SOS (chipped beef on toast) which I liked.

    All my life I’ve eschewed organ meats, including giblets, for psychological reasons. Go figure.


    Steve Riehle

    6 January 2019 at 9:00 pm

  2. I love organ meats—brains, sweetbreads, heart (actually a muscle), liver, kidney, tripe (not exactly an “organ”), spleen, blood (black pudding), and so on. Chicken hearts are terrific in (for example) a spaghettic sauce: bite-size, no bones, … what’s not to like?

    Still, tastes differ. I don’t know whether necks falls for you under the heading “giblets”, but I make an excellent turkey-neck soup.

    And then there’s oxtail, and we’ll have that as soon as The Wife returns from her next trip.



    7 January 2019 at 8:31 pm

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