Thursday, September 15, 2011

Overcoming Childhood Prejudices - Liver and Onions

Getting kids to eat can be a challenge, as any parent knows. It certainly doesn't help that children are now marketed to by major corporations who make billions of dollars peddling garbage, enticing them to eat chemical filled "non-foods" that do nothing more than cause obesity. Getting kids to eat stuff that is actually good for them can sometimes seem impossible!
It doesn't help when we as adults still carry in our minds the same prejudices we had as children. Who, as a child, liked eating squash, brussel sprouts, spinach, or the all-time worst, liver? Often times we decided we didn't like these and other foods before we even tried them! We would stick our tongues out and timidly touch a small amount of whatever it was our parents were trying to get us to eat and then react as dramatically as we could, acting as though our parents had just tried to feed us raw fish heads! From that moment on we officially "hated" that particular food item, never again allowing it near our plates, much less on our forks! When we become parents, we begin passing these prejudices on to our children, often without even being aware that we are doing so.
It is a proven fact that as we grow older, our taste buds change. As an adult, I have found that I often am forced to re-evaluate my childhood prejudices and try a food that I've always sworn up and down that I would never ever eat again. Squash, for example. As a kid, I utterly loathed this vegetable. As an adult, however, I have had to admit that not only do I not loathe it, I actually rather enjoy it. I like the variety of flavors found in different types of squash and the different ways of cooking it.
Not always have my tastes changed. I still don't like cured ham. Fresh ham, yes, but cured ham has a taste that I just cannot bring myself to like. The same goes with yams. By this, I mean the orange fleshed tuber that is usually finds its way to the Thanksgiving dinner table (though truthfully, they are actually sweet potatoes). Yes, I can already hear many of you saying "But you've never tried my sweet potatoes!" Honestly, I have given this one as many chances to be liked as I possibly can. I've had them with maple syrup, marshmallows and savory. I've had them roasted, baked, in soups and even as sweet potato fries. I still do not like them. I have, however, discovered that the white meat sweet potatoes are quite delicious. Therefore I have partially relinquished my lifelong prejudice against the sweet potato.
Some time back I found myself giving all this some thought and as I reflected on the subject, I began thinking about the King of all hated foods, liver. Most people can't even say the word casually without their faces contorting. As I thought about this much hated organ, I realized that some years back I had actually developed something of a fondness for chicken liver. Could it be that my tastes had changed enough that I might actually like beef liver now? There was only one way to find out!
The absolute key to making decent liver is soaking the meat in milk. Do not skip this step! Liver can often have a bitter flavor caused by impurities in the meat (the purpose of the liver is, after all, to clean the system) and soaking the liver in milk will help get rid of these, giving the liver a much milder and less gamey flavor. The liver should soak for at least 30 minutes but I like to give it a couple hours.

To begin, place in a large shallow dish:
1 - 1-1/2 lbs fresh beef liver
enough milk to cover the meat
Set the dish aside in the refrigerator and allow to soak for at least 1/2 hour, preferably 1-2 hours.
When you're ready to begin cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large pan and add in :
2 sweet Walla Walla onions, sliced thin
a dash of salt and pepper
Saute the onions over low-medium heat until they begin to brown, about 30 minutes or so. While the onions are cooking, prepare your flour dredge with:
1/2 c flour
1 t salt
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 t ground thyme
Mix dry ingredients together well and set aside on a plate. Remove the liver from the fridge. Drain the milk completely. Sprinkle the meat very lightly with:
2 t balsamic or red wine vinegar
Dredge the liver in the flour mixture, coating each piece well. When onions are browned a bit, remove them from the pan and set them aside. Add a little more oil to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Once the pan has become hot, add the liver and allow it to sear for a minute or two on each side. Reduce the heat back down to low-medium and add the onions back to the pan. Cover and cook until the liver has an even reddish color when you cut into it, about 5 minutes or so. You want to be careful not to overcook it or it will dry out. It should look like a steak cooked medium-rare.
This evening, in the spirit of traumatizing the inner child of some of you, I have decided to serve the liver and onions with a side of brussel sprouts. They are, after all, in season and neither my wife nor I ever had a problem as kids with eating what my siblings and I used to refer to as "baby cabbages." Cooked in melted butter with a light sprinkle of white wine vinegar, we have ourselves a wonderful feast! No munchkins allowed!

Bon Appetit!

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