Liver and onions, Alaska-style

Southeast deer season offers tasty delicacy

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

My first week in Juneau, I was presented with a fresh deer liver and the insufficient advice: "eat it soon, or it will spoil." At first, I was stumped.

Ben Bohen is a local chef and food writer. His column appears every Wednesday.

I don't have an aversion to liver. I've enjoyed it in a variety of ways over the years from pork liver ground into paté, to chicken livers with Indian curry and chickpeas, to the fatted goose livers known as foie gras. But this was different.

This animal had been living in the wild just days ago. Where had it lived, how old was it, what had it eaten? How would these factors effect its taste and texture? Unlike farmed meat, which is predictable in its flavor, there is a certain mystery about wild game.

Before cooking my liver, I consulted several recipes and got advice from a number of more experienced Alaskan game eaters. The result of my efforts was delicious.

Several people said it was a good idea to soak the liver for a few hours in water with a dash of white vinegar in order to rid the liver of blood and bile. I cannot say for sure if this is necessary, but I did use this method, and I know that my liver turned out sweet and tender. If you do soak your liver, be sure to rinse and dry it thoroughly after removing it from the water.

Liver has a bad reputation for being tough because it is so often overdone. When cooked just to medium-rare or medium, it will practically melt in your mouth.

Since liver has a pronounced earthiness and a rich texture, it can stand up to a number of different coatings when being prepared for frying. Besides the standard flour dredge, people have suggested corn meal, wheat germ or seasoned bread crumbs.

Remember that liver is one of those foods that is truly best when eaten warm. If your pan is not big enough to comfortably accommodate all of the liver at once, keep the done pieces warm in a 200 degree oven while you finish off the cooking.

Venison liver and onions

For the onions:

5 medium onions, sliced into rings

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons butter

For the liver:

1 venison liver sliced into half- inch slices

Salt and pepper to taste

Flour for dredging

3 tablespoons butter

1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over low heat. Add the onions and stir well. Cover the pan and let the onions cook until softened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions are soft, uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until browned, approximately 10 minutes. You may need to add a bit more butter if the onions are getting too dry or sticky as they cook. Season with salt and pepper. Keep the onions warm while preparing the liver.

2. Season the liver slices generously with salt and pepper and dredge them in flower to coat lightly.

3. Melt the butter in a pan over medium high heat. Sauté the liver slices until they are browned on both sides, approximately two minutes per side.

4. Serve smothered with the onions.

Ben Bohen is a local chef and food writer. Comments may be sent to him in care of reporter Julia O'Malley at

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