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Country Chicken Liver Pâté…

February 12, 2011

…and a few thoughts on liver and organ meats:

Modern nutritionists often shun organ meats since they contain cholesterol, or in the case of liver, because toxicities can accumulate in the livers of all animals since the liver’s function is to clean the blood. Start with this site to read about the health benefits of cholesterol and why this maligned substance is essential for brain function and disease prevention. There, the author argues in his research that the culprit in cases blamed on cholesterol is actually oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in radically-processed vegetable oils which mainstream nutritionism claims are healthier than naturally occurring, unprocessed animal fats).

As for toxicities in liver, proper sourcing is key. Buy only organic, or even better, grass-fed livers. Then, even if there are some residual toxicities in the liver, the nutritional benefits (which are astounding) will vastly outweigh them.

Why eat liver? Liver is or has:

  • An excellent source of high-quality protein
  • Nature’s most concentrated source of vitamin A
  • All the B vitamins in abundance, particularly vitamin B12
  • One of our best sources of folic acid
  • A highly usable form of iron
  • Trace elements such as copper, zinc and chromium; liver is our best source of copper
  • An unidentified anti-fatigue factor
  • CoQ10, a nutrient that is especially important for cardio-vascular function
  • A good source of purines, nitrogen-containing compounds that serve as precursors for DNA and RNA.
  • Source: The Liver Files

A little more from the liver files on the intriguing “anti-fatigue” factor in liver, which makes it an excellent choice for body-builders and athletes: In one study, three groups of rats were fed three different diets:

  1. A basic diet
  2. A basic diet with added B vitamins
  3. A basic diet with added liver

The rats were then placed in a tub of water they could not escape from. The times they swam before giving up (on average) were (respectively):

  1. 13.3 minutes
  2. 13.4 minutes
  3. One swam 63 minutes, one 83 minutes, one 87 minutes, and the rest were still swimming at the 2 hour mark, when the test was over.

Fascinating!! There are certainly many reasons why liver (and other organ meats) have been prized by traditional cultures for health, strength and vitality. If you’re worried about “too much vitamin A,” the same article linked to above also discusses this issue. The bottom line is:

  • don’t take too much synthetic vitamin A; and
  • you can safely consume two 4 ounce servings of liver every week to obtain its myriad health benefits without even approaching dangerous thresholds (and that’s lots of liver!!).

One last aspect of liver (and vitamin A) that I find fascinating is the impact of this extremely important nutrient on palate development in babies and children. A mother’s diet needs sufficient vitamin A for her baby’s palate to develop that beautiful dental arch and facial structure with high cheekbones seen in the people studied by Weston Price (check out one picture from this work over in my Food Philosophy post). Sufficient vitamin A also ensures excellent vision.

Without enough vitamin A, the palate is narrow, the teeth are crowded, and there are problems with the bite, which can affect a whole host of issues including breathing, IQ, and sleep. It amazes me that despite this existing research, some people still think that a mother’s diet or nutrient stores have little bearing on the development of her growing baby. And because of problems with vitamin toxicity from synthetic Vitamin A, pregnant women are warned not to eat liver, an extremely important source of nourishment for optimal fetal development in the first trimester. How sad!

Anyhow, this is certainly not everything there is to know about liver, or vitamin A. It’s just a few thoughts that have been percolating in my mind, and some sources I’ve been finding particularly interesting. If you have a favourite tidbit or source to share regarding liver or vitamin A, please comment with a link or your thoughts!!

In keeping with my goal of adding liver into our weekly fare, I decided to make some chicken liver pâté recently. It turned out brilliantly!! We really enjoyed it. The wine and mushrooms really make for a lovely flavour and texture. I followed the recipe in the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (Coulson, 1980), which didn’t require any modifications in order to align with our dietary principles. If you have the cookbook, the recipe is on page 122, but I will walk you through it here. Chicken liver pâté is an excellent way to enjoy the benefits of liver without the ‘offal’ taste :) I am still working on getting a perfect recipe ironed out for beef liver, which has a much stronger taste.

Country Chicken Liver Pâté

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 1/3 cup minced green onion
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp. unrefined sea salt

Method:

  • In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken livers in 1/4 cup of the butter with the green onions, mushrooms and garlic:

  • Stir in the wine and hot sauce, and simmer the mixture for about 5 minutes.
  • Cook until the livers are tender but still pink on the inside.
  • Blend the mixture in a covered blender at low speed, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides. You can make the mixture as chunky or smooth as you prefer.
  • Melt the rest of the butter, add to the liver mixture with the salt, blend well, and refrigerate, covered.
  • This recipe makes 3 cups of pâté.
  • Enjoy!!

Any great links on liver to share? I’m always looking for new ways to prepare liver…and I find it fascinating to read about too.

This post is submitted to Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday!!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2011 1:46 pm

    I’ll have to try this. I tried to incorporate beef liver into our diet once, but it was way too strong to start with. I have had chicken liver a few times in restaurants, and liked it, so I may use this recipe as a way to get my husband to try it. Thanks!

    • February 16, 2011 1:51 pm

      Hi Jackie,

      Yes, definitely give this a try in that case! There is no ‘liverish’ taste with this recipe. I think beef liver has more Vitamin A than chicken liver, but in any case, best to eat liver somehow, I figure. I even think it’s worth a few crackers or a slice of toast (despite my attempts to avoid grains) to get a healthy serving of liver in!

      Hope you enjoy :)

      Shannon

  2. February 21, 2011 1:21 pm

    One ingredient I’ve learned to like in my liver pate is Dijon mustard. Get from a reliable source. It hides some of the bitter bite of liver, and it makes the resulting pate something to go back for more on, voluntarily.

    • April 1, 2011 8:31 pm

      Thanks for the excellent tip! I will give that a try next time!

  3. April 1, 2011 7:58 pm

    The recipe looks great Shannon. I’ll have to try it out.

    Admittedly, when I was a kid my parents always incorporated liver in our diet, whether it was liver and onions or European liverwurst (my parents owned a German deli, so I grew up on the stuff!). And I have to say, while I was pregnant with my twin girls I never avoided the liver pate. Some days I craved it and it was one of the few things my stomach could handle during morning sickness.

    • April 1, 2011 8:34 pm

      Excellent! That is amazing that you craved liver during morning sickness – a pivotal time for the Vitamin A! I wish I had had that craving myself :)

      I am feeding my daughter livers cooked in butter straight up now, and she loves it. It’s a long-term experiment – I have terrible eyesight, and I am hoping her vision is great. We’ll see!

  4. April 2, 2011 3:55 am

    I love liver! Especially chicken livers and most especially, chicken liver paté! I regret that I was still a vegetarian when I was pregnant with Finn and probably critically low on vitamin A, working in a super stressful fashion job and gorging on sugar to keep me going…Aaarg! Finn’s teeth are definitely crowded alright, but at least he has a great diet himself with regular infusions of liver paté.

    x x x

    • April 2, 2011 10:47 pm

      I am sure hoping I can keep my Naomi eating liver when she is Finn’s age! I wish I loved it myself. I try really hard to love it :) And I plan to keep trying because I know how important it is. Thanks for stopping by,

      Shannon

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