Before you freak out and declare liver to be the worst thing ever, hear me out. Liver is very good for you, but many cannot stand to eat it in it’s traditional preparations. The thing about liver or any organ meat is that it has a strong flavor if not handled properly. One thing I do before cooking liver that makes a huge difference in the flavor, even when all I plan to do is fry it up with some onions, is to rinse it thoroughly. But my most successful liver ever is in cake form. Even people who swear they cannot stand liver will ask for seconds, I have seen it happen at my own table.
I have two different versions; one is a cake done in a 9″ Spring Form Pan and garnished with diced tomatoes and Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese that looks like a party is happening and tastes like a pizza party too! Is there really liver hidden in that meaty marvel you ask? Why yes! Yes there is a pound of beef liver along with one pound spicy Italian sausage. The secret to the smooth texture is the use of a food processor to blend everything down into a batter like texture before pouring it into the pan. This loaf is made from blending washed liver with mild or even spicy Italian Sausage and mixing it up with ground pork rinds (gluten free bread crumbs!), an egg and fresh veggies like diced red onion, matchstick carrots, basil leaves and stems, garlic cloves and drained diced canned tomatoes with some tomatoes reserved for the top. After mixing it all into a batter, line the bottom of your spring form pan with a piece of foil and snap it together, smooth the ends of the foil up the sides – the pan says it is leak proof, I do this as a precaution. Bake your liver cake for 40 minutes in a 350º oven, then top with the reserved diced tomato, cheese and cracked black pepper. Now pop it bake in the oven to bake an additional 20 minutes until done. I do it in a spring form pan like a cake so we have plenty to use later in sandwiches etc – it goes a long way, is super delicious and helps me with my anemia. Spring it and plate it and plan on loving it!
The other is a sneaky way to get kids of all ages to eat their liver, cup cakes!! The savory meatloaf made from liver and mild Italian sausage is frosted with mashed white yams using my Pampered Chef cake decorator and dusting them with smoked paprika to finish. They are festive and oh, so tasty. The sweet mashed yam “frosting” is the perfect creamy balance to the savory tender meat cake. Just like it’s big brother, you start with grinding up pork rinds – I add no salt to this recipe because there is plenty in the pork rinds. Add your veggies (onion, garlic, matchstick carrots, cilantro leaves and stems) to the crumbs and give them a good chop, then add your meats and an egg and blend into your batter. Scoop the liver into a large muffin tin that you sprayed with coconut or olive oil cooking spray. Fill them up! I like to top mine with a little Nutritional yeast for a little cheesiness. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350º oven. Allow them to rest while you whip your yams or mash potatoes for the frosting – I prefer the yams for their sweetness. You can use a cake decorator like I did or an ice cream scoop to top each muffin, then dust it with some sweet smoked paprika or perhaps a little (careful partner) chili powder for some zip. These are darling on any plate – I paired mine with some fresh asparagus I roasted lightly in a foil pouch in the last 10 minutes of cooking time for the meat cakes. All I put in the pouch was a drizzle of olive oil, two small pats of butter, salt, pepper and two teaspoons of lemon juice. Perfection!
- ½ Bag Regular Pork Rinds
- 1 lb Liver, rinsed
- 1 lb Mild or Spicy Italian Sausage
- 1 medium Red Onion, diced
- 2 handfuls Matchstick Carrots
- 3-4 garlic cloves
- 1 Handful Fresh Basil Leaves or Cilantro leaves, stems and all
- Optional: 1 can diced no salt added tomatoes, drained
- Optional: ¼ C Shredded or grated Parmesan or Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
- Optional: Mashed Yams or Potatoes to frost the cup cakes
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º F.
- Grind up a half a bag of pork rinds to make gluten free bread crumbs.
- Toss garlic cloves, diced onion, matchstick carrots and herbs (basil or cilantro) into the processor with the crumbs and pulse to mix and chop everything fine.
Note: If you are using the tomato option, drain the canned tomatoes and only put half of them in the processor, reserve the other half for topping the big cake with cheese.
- Add the sausage and rinsed liver and one egg and blend all into a chunky batter.
- Spritz a muffin tin with coconut or olive oil cooking spray for cup cakes.
For a cake, line the bottom plate of a spring form pan with foil, fit the pan together and fold the excess foil up around the outside of the pan. Spritz the interior with cooking spray.
- Load the pan with your meat loaf mix and smooth the top out with a spatula. If you are doing the cup cakes, load the cups all the way up. Meat does not expand like dough, it shrinks so piling it up is okay.
- Bake according to size: 1 Spring form pan needs 40 minutes of baking plus 20 more minutes once you top it with tomatoes and cheese. The cup cakes only require 30 minutes of baking time.
- Allow to rest for a few minutes before removing from pans. To remove from the spring form, release the catch and remove the pan you can trim the foil and set the whole thing on a pretty platter. To remove the cup cakes for frosting, insert a table knife between the cake and the pan and make sure the cake will separate from the pan easily. Lift it out of the tin and apply mashed yam or potato “frosting” with a cake decorator or an ice cream scoop. Dust with smoked paprika or a tiny bit of chili powder.