In Turkey, fried liver and onions are actually called Arnavut Ciğeri (arna-VOOT' JEE-air-EE'), or Albanian Liver, most likely a result of the years when the Ottomans ruled Albania and much of Eastern Europe. Whatever the name is, this dish is truly delicious.
Its great taste and tenderness begin with the liver itself. Only young, very fresh calf or lamb liver is used. Any veins need to be removed and discarded as these can be tough after cooking. Next, the liver should be carefully cubed, seasoned and floured, ready to sautee in butter or oil. For garnish, red onions are sliced thinly and tossed with salt, chopped Italian parsley and sumac, a tangy dark-red spice common in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Albanian fried liver and onions are most often served as a meze, or starter, but my family and I eat larger portions of it as a main course, too. In restaurants, it's often served with slivers or cubes of potatoes that are oven-baked rather than fried.
It's a popular dish in every Turkish tavern, or meyhane (MAY-hahn-EY'), along with Turkish rakı (rah-KUH'), an anise-flavored liquor mixed with ice and water, similar to ouzo or arak.
If you're looking for new ways to serve nutritious liver that the whole family will like, try this authentic Turkish recipe.
- 1 pound fresh calf or lamb liver
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 6 tbsp. flour
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil for frying
- 1 large red onion
- 1 tsp. ground sumac
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- Cube the liver with a sharp knife. The cubes should be about the size of dice. Place the cubed liver in a colander and rinse under very cold water washing away any extra blood.
- Set aside to drain for a few minutes, then turn the washed liver cubes out on paper towels to remove the extra moisture.
- In a clean plastic bag, shake together the salt, pepper, flour and paprika. Add liver cubes and shake them inside the bag until all are lightly covered with the flour mixture.
- Melt the butter and oil together in a large skillet. When hot enough for frying, add the floured liver cubes all at once. Gently arrange them with a wooden spoon so all are in contact with the oil evenly.
- When one side is browned, gently turn spoonfuls of the cubes and brown the other side. While browning you can arrange the cubes with your spoon to turn the uncooked sides, but never stir them too vigorously, or you'll risk losing the flour coating.
- While the liver is cooking, peel and thinly slice the red onion, then cut the slices into quarters. Separate the layers and toss them together with the sumac and chopped parsley, and season with salt.
- To serve, you can make a bed out the onion mixture and spoon the cooked liver on top, or you can serve the onions on the side in a separate bowl. The best side dish to go along with the liver are cubed potatoes that are baked or fried.