First, let me say that I have never been one to reach for liver. Of any variety. It is something that was not part of my upbringing, and for that matter, I’m not so sure how much a part it was of my parents’ upbringing.
However, I know how important a role it can play in health if given the opportunity. It is a rich source of readily available Vitamin A, protein and iron. It is a truly nutritious, restorative food. My training in Chinese Medicine further underscores the point–it is used traditionally for building the blood and nourishing the tendons and sinews, while benefiting the eyes, and is a terrific tonic in recovery from blood loss. All good stuff.
However, there has been a big divide between theory and practice when it comes to using grass-fed, organic beef liver as a nutritious component in my family’s diet. I’ve found the mineral-rich flavor and soft texture too overpowering to my sensibilities, and I’ve not had much more success with giving it to my kids.
But just because something might be a challenge, doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to make it work. And when it comes to this gold-mine of nutrition, I find it does best when taken as small bites, and flavored with additional ingredients.
In this instance, the additional ingredients are fatty slices of grass-fed beef bacon, onions, garlic, vegetables and the ensuing rich broth that marries all of the components. In other words, I make the liver work by making it a small part of a healthy and hearty stew.
As with all the dishes I make, I strive to get as much nutrition into every spoonful as possible, and this stew is no exception. I begin with beef I buy directly from one of our local sources, Kenny of Fishhugger. A modern-day hunter-gatherer, Kenny allows his cattle and sheep to graze on the wild grasses of New Mexico, with the resultant meats, organs and fats being sublimely infused with the taste and scent of…grass.
Likewise, the bacon created by way of Kenny’s efforts is truly hardwood smoked, and when it’s cooking, I can’t help but feel like I’m preparing bacon that is very close to the original concept of bacon–its scent fills our kitchen with a rich smokiness that is the beautiful, authentic version of what we’ve come to know in modern times.
Additionally, another important component of the stew is the nutritious, colorful and flavorful veggies I use from our local farmer, Tonopah Rob. We are part of Rob’s CSA program and we couldn’t be happier. If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area, I encourage you to contact him for excellent, local, heirloom-variety, all-natural produce. And if you don’t live in the area, please research your local farmers so you can reap the bounty of harvests in your community.
I begin by cooking the bacon on a low heat, allowing the fat to melt out, then add the liver, which has been thinly sliced. Next I add the onion, wait a few minutes, stir a couple of times, then add the veggies. After about 25″ of cooking, with a stir of the ingredients from the bottom to the top every few minutes, I add the seasonings, mirin, chopped garlic and 6 cups of boiling water. Then I cover the stew with a tight-fitting lid, and turn off the heat.
I like to serve this stew with a spoonful or two of raw sauerkraut. The salty tartness is a terrific pairing with the smoky, mild sweetness of the broth.
And, for the record, the kids have been enjoying this stew, too! It feels great to feed them such nutritious food (and not have to struggle to do so!)
Grass-Fed Beef Bacon and Liver Stew
Makes 10-12 servings
10-12 slices Grass-fed Beef Bacon, sliced into 1″ slices
3 ounces Grass-fed Beef liver, thinly sliced into 1″ pieces
1 large Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
1 medium-sized Green Cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups Kale, stems removed and chopped
6 Shiitake Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups Carrots, 1/4″ slices
2 Zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1 tablespoon Garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon powdered Sage
3-4 Bay Leaves
2-3 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt
3 tablespoons Mirin (Japanese Cooking Wine)
6 cups Purified Hot Water
In a large soup pot, cook bacon slices on low heat, then add the sliced liver. Cook both for 5-10″, allowing the fat to melt out onto the bottom of the pan, then add the sliced onions. Stir all occasionally, and cook for another 5″ before adding the cabbage and kale. Stir from the bottom, bringing the hot oil and meat over the greens, allowing them to wilt down. Next add the rest of the vegetables, salt, bay leaves and sage. Cook for another 15-20″, stirring from the bottom to the top periodically. Finally, add the hot water, mirin and garlic, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and remove from the heat. After 15-20″, spoon out into bowls and top with fresh, raw sauerkraut.