We’ve just begun to come down from the stifling August heat, when schools reluctantly suspend lessons to prevent students from asphyxiating in their non-air-conditioned classrooms (I’m only a little joking). During this time, many tempura-and-noodle restaurants push their “stamina” sets, which typically consist of a high-calorie protein – usually eel – with garlic, noodles, and rice, designed to fortify their consumers with the energy they need to combat natsubate, heat exhaustion.
Unfortunately for an eel-lover like me, it’s not very economical to make at home, and thus is relegated to the Treat Yourself category of food. So where is the penny-pinching cook to turn when she is in need of a hearty dish to sustain her?
In a word: liver.
Okay, now that I’ve lost the Americans, let me expound to you the virtues of liver: It’s cheap. It’s full of vitamins and nutrients. It prevents anemia and fatigue. It tastes really good when prepared with a little thought. Let’s explain that last one . . .
The key to good liver is to soak or marinate it before cooking. My mom recently told me she doesn’t do this – and maybe it’s not necessary – but for most people, this seems to be an important step. As with other offal and sweetbreads, the most common way to do this is by soaking the liver in milk for 1 or more hours (overnight in the fridge, even), but you could certainly get creative and brine or marinate with liquid of your choosing.
After soaking, dump the liquid and cook your liver. We had ours for breakfast, so it’s hash style, but here’s a very comprehensive article about liver from the Weston A. Price Foundation that gives several different recipes – including the following from Japan, called “Nira Reba” (liver and chives):
1/2 pound pork liver
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 bunch nira (Chinese chives)
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon potato starch
lard for frying
Cut liver into bite-sized pieces and marinate in a mixture of soy sauce, sake and ginger for 20 minutes. Remove liver from the sauce, pat dry and dredge in arrowroot. Heat lard in a deep pan and fry the liver pieces.Remove liver to a heated plate. Chop nira into short pieces and sauté in a frying pan. Add deep-fried liver and sauté with nira. Add the sauce used for marinating liver to the frying pan and stir well. Add the mixture of water and potato starch, stir quickly and remove from heat. Serve immediately.
Sounds delicious. Here is our recipe – I dare you not to like it.
Sunday Morning Liver Hash
Quick note on dredging: Dredging – or rolling a piece of meat in a starch before cooking it – is a popular way to prepare liver. If you don’t want to do it, it’s certainly not necessary.
1 package chicken livers (with hearts attached); about 6 livers
300 ml milk
2 medium yams or potatoes
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, diced
3 small green peppers (Japanese piman), diced
2 medium red peppers, diced
1/2 cup potato starch (for dredging)
salt, pepper, paprika
soy sauce and red wine (optional)
- Cut the livers into bite-sized pieces and separate the hearts. Soak the livers and hearts in the milk for 2 hours.
- While livers are soaking, boil the yams until they are soft enough to be pierced through with a fork. Drain, cut into cubes, and set aside.
- Fill a shallow bowl or plate with potato starch, salt, pepper, and paprika. This is the mixture in which you will dredge (dip and roll) the livers.
- When liver has soaked, pour out the milk. Return to bowl – don’t pat them dry, as the moisture will help the flour adhere to them.
- Heat a large fry pan with a little canola oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, peppers, and seasonings. Add a dash of soy sauce and/or red wine if you’re using it. Saute until onions are just soft.
- With a wooden spoon, push the sauteed vegetables to the side of the pan to create space and add a little more oil if necessary. Turn the heat up to medium-high. Working quickly, take each liver piece and lightly roll in the starch before popping it into the pan. Do the same with the hearts.
- Spread the vegetables lightly around the meat. Add potatoes. Cover the pan and let cook until the liver turns pale, about 6 minutes. Check for doneness by slicing a piece and examining the insides. As with steak, a bit of pink in the middle is ideal, but it’s up to you.
- Plate and serve immediately.
Dane added ketchup because he likes it (gross) but I could also see a bit of Worcestershire sauce or Tobasco working as well. I didn’t add anything else to mine; all that oil and garlic was enough.