The On-line Journal of Mary Esther Malloy

Nutrient-Dense Food for Your Family: Focus on Liver

When my mother was pregnant with my brother P.J. – her fourth child –  she was diagnosed with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. She worked with a dietician who had her off sugar and on organ meats. Almost every day of that pregnancy, my mother sautéed liver, onions and spinach for lunch. I was then seven-years-old and the smell would send me running outside for air, gagging and retching with all manner of drama. I swore off liver forever. I pitched battles for years to come when the annual liver dinner would be served to me and my siblings.

But now, ever-interested in optimal health for my family and the families I work with, I am preparing foods that are somewhat close to the foods our species evolved eating. For our family, it’s out with the processed sugars and oils and in with the bone broths and … uh, organ meats? Oh man…

Here, in brief, is my story of liver and onions recovery:

One day not so long ago, I was visiting Stone Barns with my kids and spied a liver in their freezer.  It cost a mere $6. Hmmmm… I had to consider it.  If you know Stone Barns, the original farm-to-table farm and restaurant (I highly recommend Dan Barber’s The Third Plate), you know that anything for just $6 is worth considering. You also know that that liver came from one happy farm animal who was well nourished and cared for.

It seemed like the time had come. I laid down my money and went home with a frozen liver.  I’m not going to lie: I had to do some serious self-talk to work myself past my early childhood liver aversion. I made progress with a steady mind-over-feelings mantra about the benefits of liver:

  • Liver is considered the most nutrient-dense food
  • Liver contains an easily assimilable form of Iron
  • Liver has all the B vitamins (including high amounts of B12 and Folic Acid)
  • Liver is a safe source for the very important Vitamin A
  • Liver is the the anti-fatigue, endurance food (great for parents and doulas alike)

I searched for a palatable-seeming recipe. Remarkably, I’ve been super happy to eat this yummy pâté and do feel better for the effort. How did my brother P.J. turn out with my mom’s liver diet during his gestation? Ummm… pretty darn well. Let’s just say he got a full academic scholarship to a prep school and then a full academic scholarship to Harvard. No promises, but it paid to eat well!

Mary Esther's Recipe for Only Way to Eat Liver (so far)

  • 1 lb. grass-fed lamb liver (beef, chicken, pork)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons lard
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 8 oz. bone broth with a splash of red wine vinegar, or red wine
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary, chopped
  • sea salt to taste
  • black pepper
  • ¼ cup cream (I’ve used milk or skipped this if I don’t have cream)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 teaspoons Pâté Spice (mix up a bunch & leave in your cupboard for future use)
    To make a bunch (double or triple while you’re at it and store it):
    1 tsp ground clove, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground coriander seed, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, pinch of cayenne pepper and 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • To reduce the liver-y taste, soak the liver in milk for an hour or so. Drain off the milk, rinse and pat dry.
  • Heat a skillet with lard. Cut the liver into ½ inch chunks and cook with garlic and onions for 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Remove the liver to a nearby bowl and add the broth or red wine. Let it reduce and naturally thicken. Stir in the rosemary, salt and pepper. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender. Blend the liver, broth and lemon/lime juice, butter, and cream until you have a thick, smooth consistency.
  • Scoop the pâté into a bowl. Place in the fridge for a few hours to set.

I’ll eat it on cucumbers or carrots, or on toasted whole wheat sourdough bread with some avocado oil chipotle mayo. I mix it into hamburgers for my kids. My teenage boys will eat these super-burgers but my seven-year-old daughter hollers, “These hamburgers are disgusting!” Yup, she takes after me.

For feeding babies and children organ meats, See Sally Fallon Morell’s The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care.

*Pâté Spice recipe adapted from Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn. Pâté recipe adapted from something I can no longer find online! Gratitude to the author!