OK to be a Liver Lover - within Limits

Loving liver as a kid made me an oddity. I liked it just as well as pizza, or fried chicken, or a hamburger, and back then, no one ever had to coax me into eating it by saying, “Eat your liver – it’s good for you.” I ate liver because I liked it, and I considered it’s being “good” for me, more of a reward than an incentive. When I grew up and was on my own, I continued to eat liver – chicken livers, in particular, which were inexpensive and went far for a young woman on a budget and with a student loan to pay. I ate chicken livers often in those years, and when I did, I liked to cook them Asian style, adding things like scallions, ginger and garlic to the sauté pan. Today, I only eat liver about once a month, not because I like its creamy texture and delicate flavor any less, but rather because we now know that foods that are high in cholesterol, like liver, are best enjoyed in moderation. Some folks, not overly concerned with cholesterol and the role it plays in developing heart disease, eat liver more often, valuing it for its healthier flip side – as an excellent source of  nutrients such as copper, zinc and folate, as well as for vitamins, like B2, B12 and, in particular, vitamin A. However, there’s a caveat here, especially for a very special segment of our population. Some studies suggest that pregnant women who eat too much liver may be putting their unborn child at risk by ingesting excessive amounts of vitamin A. (See the March of Dimes website at http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/nutrition_risks.html for more information.) 

If this is of concern for you, speak to your doctor, or health care professional, regarding what is in your and your baby’s best interest. Liver, like many good foods in life, is meant to be savored and – difficult as it may to those of us who love it– limited.


Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.   

Calf’s Liver with Applewood Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Caramelized onions (recipe follows)

1 pound sliced calf’s liver

8 slices applewood bacon

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

½ cup rich beef broth

¼ cup tawny port

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, for seasoning

1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried), plus more fresh thyme for garnish


Whisk together flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dredge liver in flour, coating well on both sides; shake off excess. In a large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove skillet from heat, and place bacon on a paper towel-lined dish to drain. (While cooking liver, keep bacon warm.) Pouring off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings in the pan, reserve the rest of the drippings for cooking the onions (recipe follows). Return skillet to medium-high heat, adding butter to pan. When butter foams, add liver, cooking until liver is browned and has reached desired degree of doneness. Transfer liver to a plate and keep warm. Add shallots to skillet and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in broth, port and vinegar. Boil mixture until it thickens, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour sauce over liver, topping with caramelized onions and bacon. If you have them, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, as desired. Makes 4 servings. 


Caramelized Onions

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon dark balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt


In a large, flat bottomed skillet, heat oil and 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon drippings over medium-high heat. As the oil begins to ripple, add the onions, stirring to separate and coat with oil. Cover and decrease heat to low, stirring occasionally, until onions soften, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over onions, stirring to mix. Add vinegar and salt and stir again. Cook, uncovered for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until onions are soft and a deep golden brown. (If onions begin to stick, add a little water.) Remove from heat, cover and set aside until ready to use. If necessary, reheat gently before using. 

Store leftover onions in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sautéed Teriyaki Chicken Livers with Mushrooms

2 pounds trimmed chicken livers, drained

½ stick butter or margarine

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

½ cup diced onions

2 tablespoons diced scallions

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

¼ cup Japanese sake

¼ cup Teriyaki sauce

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Sautéed mushrooms (recipe follows)

Cooked rice, for serving


Whisk together the sake, Teriyaki, water, honey and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl until well combined; set aside. In a large skillet, melt butter with oil, over medium heat. When butter foams, stir in onions, scallions, garlic and ginger, cooking until onions are soft. Add livers, cooking until cooked through and lightly browned. Add sautéed mushrooms to pan. Stir the sauce mixture into the livers and mushrooms heat until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and serve with rice. Makes 4 servings. 


Sautéed Mushrooms


12 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned*
and sliced

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons Japanese sake 

Salt and pepper to taste









In a large skillet, melt butter in oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are brown and soft. Add sake and stir until liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper to taste. *Kitchen Ade Note: Commercially grown mushrooms are grown in a sterile environment. To clean, simply brush with a soft brush or wipe clean with a paper towel. Mushrooms are porous, so never wash them with water.

Peggy Ashworth’s Crisp Liver in Lemon Sauce

“This recipe will make liver-lovers smile!” – Peggy Ashworth, Rose Hill Plantation, Bluffton

6 slices bacon

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons dried dill

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

½ pound calf’s liver 

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced parsley

1 tablespoon lemon zest for garnish

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towels and crumble. Set aside. Reserve drippings in skillet. Combine flour, dill, salt and pepper in a pie plate. Dredge liver in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Sauté in skillet 4 to 6 minutes until crisp, but moist inside. Remove liver and keep warm. Discard drippings from skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add butter, scraping up browned bits. Stir in lemon juice, parsley and bacon. Pour over liver. Garnish with lemon zest and serve immediately. Yield 2 servings.