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The lack of liver on menu is just wrong

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Updated: January 8, 2013 10:08AM



On the menu at mk (868 N. Franklin), the most expensive appetizer is duck liver (foie gras), and the least expensive entree is calves’ liver.

Foie gras — once banned in Chicago — is regularly listed on upscale menus; calves’ liver is almost never found on any menu.

When I was a kid, we had calves’ liver all the time. I even seem to recall it on the steam table in my college cafeteria. In 2013, it’s rare to find liver on Chicago tables.

I asked mk’s Chef Erick Williams why so few restaurants serve calves’ liver. “Because it’s not cute,” Williams said, “and chefs want to serve food that looks good. To me, liver looks like a pile of meat.”

Although Williams serves liver with the obligatory bacon and charred onions, he doesn’t actually like the stuff.

“I can’t take it. My mother used to cook it until the ghosts came out,” he said, referring to the common technique, practiced by my own dear mom, of over-cooking liver to rawhide consistency.

Acceptance of liver may be a generational thing. Recently, I dined at mk with a thirtysomething woman and twentysomething man. Neither had eaten calves’ liver. Ever.

When my liver arrived, the woman wryly remarked, “It doesn’t look nearly as horrifying as I’d expected.”

She liked the liver; the man, however, took one bite and recoiled, saying “too iron-y.” Indeed, liver contains much iron, which is why it’s traditionally recommended for young women.

Though we have daughters, we almost never prepared liver at home. The kids made funny faces whenever I mentioned it and we had health concerns. The liver filters blood, so we wondered if perhaps this organ acted as a repository for toxins consumed or injected into factory-farmed animals.

Lori Dunn of Strauss Farms, which supplies mk, assured me their free-raised calves’ liver is “100 percent free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and they feed on 100 percent mother’s milk,” which allays worries about toxic build-up.

Though rare at most white tablecloth restaurants, liver can be found at old school places like George’s (145 S. Oak Park Ave, Oak Park), where I take it Greek-style, with oregano and lemon.

David Hammond is an Oak Park writer and contributor to WBEZ (91.5 FM) and LTHForum.com. E-mail detective@suntimes.com.



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