In the 1970s there was a terrific diner in the hard-hat area of San Francisco that served grilled calves liver steaks about 3/4 inch thick with gobs of sautéed onions, horseradish sauce and mashed potatoes. I still remember the succulent caramelized flavor on the outside and the moist, tenderness on the inside of that medium-rare liver steak. This was he-man food for construction crews. It definitely wasn’t that shoe-leather that Mom cooked with heavy gravy that could only be masked with lots of French’s mustard. But after all, liver is a good source of protein and iron and easy on the pocketbook so back in the day liver for dinner once or twice a month was not uncommon.
Over the years I’ve developed this flash method of sautéing liver and onions with a bit of lemon juice, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and some sage. It’s very similar to the Tuscan and Venetian style of preparing liver. The acid of the lemon removes the gaminess of the liver and the Worcestershire sauce adds a little kick. Served with polenta and garnished with garlic chives this is lighter in calories yet still filling. The secret to tender liver is thin slices, flash-fried and rested while the onions sauté and you make polenta. Dinner is ready in 30 minutes easily.
You don’t have to be a liver oficionado to like enjoy this dish. Try this cheap meal.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
- 1 lb. calves liver, rinsed and sliced 3/8-inches thin, 3-4 inches long
- salt and pepper
- 2 medium onions, sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon or 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp. dried sage or marjoram
- parsley or chives for garnish
- 4 servings polenta prepared according to package directions
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add oil.
- Salt and pepper liver slices and place in one layer in skillet. Don’t crowd the slices. As soon as the last slice is in the skillet start turning the first slices. Cook no more than 30 seconds to 1 minutes on both sides. Remove the liver slices to a plate.
- Saute the onions in the same skillet until fragrant, salt and pepper to taste, cover, turn onions every 5 minutes until caramelized, about 20 minutes total. Remove the onions to the plate of liver.
- Add lemon juice, Worcestershire and sage to the skillet to stir to deglaze. Return the liver and onions to the skillet and stir to distribute the lemon sauce. Heat just until warmed through about 3 minutes, remove from heat and serve over polenta or mashed potatoes.