Turkey Liver with Balsamic Reduction


When I eat meat, I try to eat as much of the whole animal as possible.

The day after Thanksgiving, I use the turkey carcass, preferably with some meat left on the bones, and the neck and giblets to make a nutritious stock.

And if I haven't already served the liver on Thanksgiving or used it to make paté, I make this dish the day after, to use it while it's fresh and to put something new on the table if we're eating leftovers. And unlike other holiday dishes, it takes just a few ingredients that I always have on hand.

This easy and elegant first course has been known to turn liver-skeptics into liver lovers. I used balsamic vinegar to make the sauce because it appeals to many palates, even when liver does not. But you can deglaze the pan with another liquid instead: port wine, red wine, cognac or turkey stock.

Liver is a good source of protein, B vitamins, vitamin A, and minerals like iron, selenium, phosphorus and zinc. But like any animal product, it can also contain heavy metals and environmental contaminants. It is not necessarily due to the nature of the organ (the liver acts as a filter for the body but it is not a sponge; it changes toxins in the blood into excretable compounds). Contamination is usually a result of the way the animal was raised, so always choose livers (and eggs, meat and dairy products) from animals who were raised on pasture, fed their natural diet, and never exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals.

This recipe serves 2 or 3 people. If you will be feeding more, serve liver slices on whole wheat toasts, drizzled with the balsamic reduction. Or roughly mash the cooked liver with a little bit of room temperature grass-fed butter and the balsamic reduction, and serve it as a spread. 

Turkey liver(s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil, first cold pressing
Sea salt
Ground peppercorn
Aged balsamic vinegar

Trim away any connective tissue from the liver. Season the whole liver, in one or two pieces, generously with sea salt and peppercorn.

Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the liver and sauté it for 3 minutes on each side. Do not overcook the liver; it should still be slightly pink inside. It will be done when the outside has browned and it feels firm yet slightly tender in the center. If it feels soft, cook it longer. Once it's done, transfer the liver to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add 2 splashes of balsamic vinegar (or one per serving), enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Swirl it around to incorporate any brown bits stuck to the skillet or stir it with a wooden spoon. Simmer until the vinegar reduces and thickens, just a minute or two.

Thinly slice the liver and arrange it on a serving dish. Pour the sauce over the top and serve immediately.