One of America’s most reviled foods — at least for some — might actually be super-healthy. Move over goji berries and kale: Organ meats (aka offal) are gaining in popularity as the new superfoods. Liver, especially, is emerging on many nutritionists’ recommended grocery lists.
A lot of us loathed these animal parts as kids, but surprise, surprise … maybe our parents and grandparents really did know best. Here, find out more — and we bring you a surprisingly delicious recipe for beef liver & onions from Chef Jordan Feintech.
Liver… a superfood?
According to movement and nutrition coach Amanda Barbian, liver is the most nutrient-dense organ meat — a powerful source of vitamin A, iron, and the vitamin B group. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health and for reducing diseases that cause inflammation, including everything from Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis. The Bs are great for brain health, cellular development and energy. Iron is important for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
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Another thing to note is how effective organ meat can be for weight loss and muscle gain. Because of its high protein levels, it can keep you full longer (meaning you’re less likely to overeat), and it helps with muscle building and maintenance.
Moreover, Americans waste about 60% of animals used for food, including, of course, the offal. In 2016, we exported 150,000 metric tons of cow organ meat abroad rather than eating it ourselves. Our friends in countries such as France, Germany, China and Mexico are the main consumers of our leftover animal products. That’s a lot of dense nutrient sources.
Barbian recommends eating offal about 3 to 4 times a week to get the most benefit while keeping cholesterol in mind, especially if you’re also eating seafood, beef and poultry.
Incorporating this recommendation will come easier to those of us who enjoy certain regional cuisines passed down through our families. Dishes like the Jewish-American chopped liver, the American West’s prairie oysters (aka cow testicles), and the Deep South’s pork chitterlings (small intestines) have been cooked for decades.
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Offal is not so awful anymore
We get it: The idea of eating offal can be off-putting — but maybe because it isn’t familiar.
It’s catching on, though. Trendy restaurants in metropolitan areas like New York City, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago and Denver are now seeing success with offal. From calf brains and herbs for brunch to tripe (beef spleen) tacos at late-night food trucks, we’re slowly recognizing how tasty organ meats can be with the right preparation and accompanying ingredients.
So for those of you with taste buds that are new to offal, let’s focus specifically on beef liver. It contains 50 times as much vitamin B12 as steak, more vitamins than kale and spinach, and more B vitamins than any other food in the world. It’s a great (and relatively easy-to-cook) dish because it’s softer than muscle meat, and has a deep, rich flavor. Local grocers usually carry liver, but small ethnic markets are a sure bet.
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Los Angeles-style liver & onions you can love
In searching for a liver recipe that appeals to the beginner palate and seasoned offal eater alike, we had to try the old classic: liver & onions. So we contacted Chef Jordan Feintech of the popular Los Angeles barbecue catering company Oaksmoke BBQ. Like Amanda Barbian, he advises making sure your meat is grass-fed/pasture-raised. He also sautés it in grass-fed butter for this particular liver dish.
Here’s Chef Feintech’s beef liver & onions recipe.
Beef liver & onions
Yield 3 servings
- 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 1/2 small white or yellow sweet onion, chopped finely
- 6 cloves garlic , chopped finely
- 12 ounces beef liver, cut to 1-inch sections
- 1/4 cup red wine (1/2 cup if preferred)
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- A few turns of pepper grinder
- 2 drops liquid smoke (optional)
- Preheat convection oven to 300F.
- In cast-iron or steel pan (oven-safe and nonreactive), sauté onion in butter until slightly translucent. (Optional: Add 2 drops liquid smoke for extra flavor.)
- Add garlic and sauté another 45 seconds on medium heat (avoid smoke).
- Add sliced liver and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir.
- Add wine and bring to simmer.
- Loosely cover with foil and place pan in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour until meat is tender.
- Remove pan and reduce juices on stove.
- Broil for 30 seconds to brown edges.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Courses Main dish
If you’re looking for another way to enjoy some superfoods, how about trying raw chocolate? Learn more in the video below.