My mother believed in providing nourishing meals to her husband and children. As you might expect, this led to some conflicts. My father, for instance, did not like cheese or mushrooms, but he ended up eating macaroni and cheese and cream of mushroom soup, and we kids faced a monthly dinner of liver and onions.
My sisters and I didn’t like the combination, but we choked down a little as we listened to a lecture about how much iron it had. Iron, we learned, helped our bodies make red blood cells, which we needed if we wanted to be able to run fast and work hard. We thought that we would do just fine with hamburgers, pot roast and fried chicken. I may have once pointed out that molasses cookies were a good source of iron too.
My mother was right, as you might expect. Liver is an excellent source of iron plus vitamins A, B and C along with other important minerals such as zinc and phosphorus. And if you are concerned about the calories and fat in the foods you eat, pork and beef liver have fewer calories and less fat than the same amount of steak or roast. One warning: liver contains so much vitamin A that it should not be eaten more than once a week.
Still, there is the problem of getting the family to eat liver. Jerri and I both remember liver and onions but not with fondness. That combination may have originated in England, where it is still popular and Americans developed a taste for it too. Liver and onions was so much in demand in the United States in the past century that fine restaurants advertised the dish and many cafes offered a liver and onion special once a week.
When Bob and I moved into our apartment in Madison, we agreed to share the kitchen chores equally. When Bob cooked, I did the dishes and he reciprocated. To begin with, we fried hamburgers, pork chops and chicken, opened cans of vegetables and boiled potatoes. After a few weeks, we began broadening our diets with other dishes. Bob introduced me to his mother’s hot dish and I reciprocated with Gus Gauch’s macaroni and cheese.
Sometime that summer Bob made me like fried liver. Instead of making liver and onions, he created his own recipe. it’s a winning combination of fried liver, bacon, creamed corn and boiled potatoes. Bob told me that his mother made liver and onions and gave him the same lecture I got about how it was good for him. Years later she confessed that she didn’t like liver and onions when she was having a second serving of Bob’s liver and bacon.
I brought the recipe with me when Jerri and I set up housekeeping in Virginia. Jerri’s salary as a teacher and my teaching fellowship provided enough money to live on if we were careful. One way to economize was to have liver and bacon twice a month. We could put a meal on the table for less than a dollar.
Economy was not the only reason we included liver and bacon on the menu. We actually looked forward to having a dinner of tender liver and home-smoked bacon from the meat market just a few blocks from our apartment. Today, unless you are very lucky, you will have to make do with frozen liver, but your dinner will turn out fine anyway and you can put a nourishing and tasty dinner on the table for under seven dollars.
Here is what you need.
1 lb. beef or pork liver
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large or 4 medium potatoes
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 to 1/3 lb. bacon
1 can creamed corn
3/4 cup milk
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
If the liver is frozen, thaw it. You can do this simply by putting the package in the refrigerator in the morning; the meat will be thawed when you are ready to cook dinner.
Put the slices of liver in a shallow bowl, cover them with milk and let them sit on the counter for fifteen or twenty minutes while you peel the potatoes. If necessary turn them once or twice to make sure that all surfaces are in the milk for at least a few minutes.
Peel the potatoes, cut them in quarters and put them in a saucepan with about three-fourths of a teaspoon of salt. Bring them to a boil and cook them for twenty to twenty-five minutes until they are tender. Test them with a fork. Larger pieces take longer to cook. Drain the potatoes and leave them in the covered saucepan to remain warm while the meat finishes cooking.
While the potatoes are cooking, put six to eight slices of bacon in a frying pan and cook them over low heat until they begin to brown on both sides. Remove them from the pan before they are crisp. Leave all the grease in the pan.
Mix a quarter teaspoon of salt and a grind or two of black pepper with the flour on a plate. Raise the heat under the frying pan to medium. Drain the liver slices, dredge them in the flour and fry them for about three minutes on each side. Check for doneness by cutting into one of the thicker pieces. It should be barely pink when you take it from the pan.
Warm the creamed corn in the microwave or in a small saucepan while the liver is frying.
Diners can smash their own potatoes and cover them with creamed corn, choose their slices of liver and bacon and dig in. Pass the salt and pepper as some folks may like to grind a little pepper on their corn (as I do) or add a bit more seasoning to the meat.