I picked up some veal liver on 50% off special at the Swiss Coop because I buy almost anything that’s 50% off in the meat section, and then I tossed it in the freezer. Tonight, I was in the mood for it, but I was bored silly at the idea of the usual milk-soaked liver & onions, European style. I wanted something tart and tasty and fresh, and I kept thinking about sumac and… something. Turns out that the Turks use sumac in their liver recipes, and I found a nice version to riff off of on seasonalcookinturkey.com. My version is a lot spicier and more tart than the original, but just as easy to make.
Calf Liver with Cumin, Parsley, and Sumac
- 1 lb calf liver Lamb liver is also excellent.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 T masa harina
- 2 t cumin seeds Toast the seed whole in a dry pan for a few minutes over medium heat, then grind or crush in mortar. If you have ground cumin, you can toast that gently in a pan, but be careful not to burn it.
- 1 T dried red pepper Grind finely. Any tangy hot pepper will do. Stay away from smoked peppers.
- 1 T fresh thyme chopped fine, leaves only
- 3 T safflower oil or other vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped, preferably flat-leafed
- 1 red onion medium sized, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced thin
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 T sumac
- 1 t coarse salt
- Soak the liver in the milk the night before you want to make it.
- Put the masa harina, ground cumin, red pepper, and fresh thyme into a bag (paper or plastic) big enough to hold the liver and the masa and shake it around, because that's what you'll do.
- Drain the milk, cut the liver into about 3/4" (2 cm) cubes. Toss the cubes in the bag of masa and spices and shake until coated. If the liver is still wet, add a bit more masa. Cubes should be coated and dry to the touch, but not very thick with the corn flour.
- Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat. You want the oil hot enough that the liver will sizzle when it hits and stay sizzling while it cooks. I use a well-seasoned cast-iron pan because it heats evenly and stays hot easily. Make sure the pan is big enough to hold the liver cubes in a single layer. Let the cubes brown on one side before turning them -- about 2-3 minutes. Turn and cook for another minute or two, so the second side browns, then gently flip them with a spatula until all sides are cooked, but not overdone. This whole process should take about 6 minutes if the oil is the right temperature. Right before the liver is cooked (at around 4-5 minutes), add the garlic and saute for a minute, then turn off the heat, put the pan on a cool burner and stir in the parsley. Turn immediately into a serving bowl. I use a salad bowl that can handle warm ingedients.
- Squeeze the half lemon over the liver and then gently toss the liver with the red onions, sumac, and coarse salt.