Salad with Liver

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When I purchased the book, Alpine Cooking, I knew all of the cheesy recipes would jump out at me, like liptauer. What I didn’t expect to entice me was a beautiful green salad topped with sautéed calf liver and fried onions.

Here are some of my own photos from our family’s time visiting the Alps in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Notice we’ve only been there during the warm months!

I rarely cook liver at home. It’s just the two of us, and the “other” won’t eat liver. So if I make a paté or foie gras, we have one friend and a son-in-law who will join in on the feast. Outside of that happening, I have to eat it all myself.

Occasionally I get a hankering for good ‘ole beef liver, served with onions and eggs. It’s fabulous for breakfast.

In the case of this salad, however, I didn’t mind making it and having it all to myself. At least there was some lettuce involved!

Tyrolean Liver Salad
Tiroler Lebersalat

Crispy onions:
2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 yellow onions, sliced into very thin rings

Dressing:
1/4 cup white balsamic
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salad:
1 pound calf liver, but into 3/4” slices
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
2/3 cup beef stock
Mixed salad greens (mesclun, baby gem, radicchio) for serving

Line a baking sheet with a layer of paper towels. In a heavy pot or a cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it registers 320 degrees to 340 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. (I used my electric deep fryer.) When the oil is at the correct temperature, dredge 1/4 of the onion rings in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess before transferring to the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining onions, working in batches.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine both vinegars, the salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and whisk in both oils; set aside. (I just shook the ingredients in a jar.)

Generously season the liver with salt and pepper. In a cast-iron pan over high heat, warm the olive oil until it shimmers. Pan-fry the liver slices, turning them over only when you see a nice golden-brown crust forming on the bottom. Stir in the garlic and herbs, followed by the beef stock. Continue to cook over medium heat until the stock has reduced to a sauce consistency and the liver has softened, another minute or so.

Arrange the salad greens on four plates, topping each with a portion of liver.

Spoon the warm dressing over each plate and top with crispy onions. Serve immediately.

The braised liver was tender and very good, surprisingly. I’ve never braised liver, but I also didn’t cook it nearly as long as the recipe suggests.

I served the salads with rye crackers and German Tilsit cheese. Outstanding.

This really is a fun salad. Of course you have to like liver.

I enjoyed the fried onion rings, and included ripe tomatoes just for some color.

And if you’ve never had Tilsit, get some!!!

Foie Gras

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If I were ever asked what my last meal would be, it wouldn’t be a difficult answer. Foie gras, seared gently and cooked medium-rare, served with a compote of sorts and some toasts. It’s heaven on a plate to me.

Sadly, I can count the number of people I know who love liver as much as I do on one finger. So as a result, I’ve rarely prepared it.

Fortunately, I am able to buy beef liver where I live, and do enjoy it on occasion, typically with eggs and lots of browned onions.

And, I am able to purchase chicken liver in order to make chicken liver paté.

But there is just no comparing a slice of beef liver, or puréed chicken livers to the wonderfulness that is foie gras, and it was high time I purchased it.

My source for foie gras is the wonderful store and website D’Artagnan. The founder of D’Artagnan is Ariane Daguin, and her story is inspirational.

I purchased two lobes from D’Artagnan – one to cook sliced, and the other to make a paté for the holidays.

Foie Gras with Beet Pancakes, Poached Apples, and Nectar

I chose to serve the foie gras with beet pancakes, which I made simply with grated beets, chopped shallots, egg, and flour.

Because fruit pairs so well with foie gras, I poached apple slices in a combination of apple nectar and maple syrup until soft, then reduced the liquid until syrupy.

Sometimes there is confusion, as one can make paté from liver, or one can make paté from foie gras, as my friend Stéphane did when I visited him at his home five long years ago. I got to help a little!

To prepare the foie gras, slice the lobe gently but firmly. Place the slices on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

I like to cook foie gras in browned butter. I prefer a lighter sear, so I immediately turned down the fire after turning over the foie gras slices.

It only takes a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. As I mentioned, I love foie gras medium rare. To the plate with 2 slices of foie gras I added a beet pancake, some of the nectar-poached apples, and then poured on a little syrup.


The combination was perfection, if I may say so myself!

I included the beet pancake for color, but one could place the foie gras slices on bread slices optionally.

If all you’ve heard about foie gras is the inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, please read this article by my favorite Serious Eats writer J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. The article is well-researched, educational, and also based on personal experience.

Hair of the Dog Breakfast

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Not that I would ever need a hair-of-the-dog kind of breakfast (!) but this is it for me if I was ever in need of one. What’s better than eggs, liver, onions, and all of that topped off with a bloody mary?!!!

Now I promised there would be at least one liver post in 2013, and this is it. I happen to be a fan. Maybe some of you should give it a try, after all, it’s really inexpensive!

I think liver and eggs are the only reasons I made it out of college alive, because they were all I could afford. Eggs were cheap, and a carton of beef liver cost under a dollar and could stretch me three meals. (This was back in the 70’s.)

These days, eggs are a little more expensive, but liver is still cheap.

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I prefer beef liver with my eggs, as opposed to chicken liver, which I use only to make pâté. I prefer the texture of beef liver, and the servings are good-sized. So here’s what I did the morning after my last holiday hurrah:

Liver and Eggs
Serves 2

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, halved, then sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 “slabs” beef liver, blotted dry on paper towels
2 eggs, or 4, if you prefer

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until they are nice and brown, about five minutes; place them in a bowl and keep warm.

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Heat 2 more tablespoons of butter in the same skillet and cook 2 slices of liver. Give them at least a minute on one side, then turn them over. I usually turn down the heat slightly and cook a little more on the second side. I like mine rare, but I don’t want the liver too seared on the outsides, with raw insides.

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Remove the liver to a plate, and then cook the eggs; there should be enough butter in the skillet to cook them. If not, add a little more butter.

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To serve, place a liver slice on a plate, put your cooked egg next to it, and top everything with the onions. Don’t forget the bloody mary!