As someone who regularly eats offal, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had a really difficult time determining which part of the fish was its liver. My husband and I debated this while comparing a mound of indistinguishable guts against the photos of neatly laid-out organs in chef Josh Niland’s “The Whole Fish Cookbook.”
I removed the organ that most resembled mammal liver, then shooed my husband out of the kitchen so that I could get to cooking it. The organ was large, pink, and meaty. The abundance of visceral fat surrounding it told me this particular liver came out of a farmed fish, which only added to my uncertainty about its identification. Fish offal can vary in appearance and size depending on species, geography, and origin. I usually catch my own fish and have therefore never actually held a farmed fish, but with all of the experimentation in this series, my local fish market has kindly been giving me their “scraps.”
I wanted to try a culinary method that Niland and Gitga’at First Nation anthropologist Spencer Greening both agree on, so I fired up my barbecue and pulled out some metal skewers. As mentioned in my last instalment of Nostril to Caudal, livers and hearts should not be cooked over direct heat, because the results will come out tough and chewy.
I didn’t want to overshadow the liver’s natural flavour, so I opted for the simplicity of salt and olive oil. Once my grill was hot, I put the skewer well above the heat and waited. Niland’s book suggests grilling each side for 20 seconds, making sure the inside of the liver stays pink. I found that 40 seconds on each side still resulted in a soft pink centre and crispy exterior.
Once the liver had browned, I pulled it off the grill and drizzled it with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and orange marmalade. It smelled delicious and melted in my mouth, making me question if I shouldn’t have cooked it longer. It was rich (almost too rich) but tasted nothing like fish. In fact, it didn’t taste like anything I’d ever eaten before. My hubby refused to try it, but when he asked me to explain the taste, the best explanation I could offer was, “The sort of delicacy you’d praise a dinner host for—before smacking them once you knew what it was.”
If you’re looking to try eating fish offal for the first time, this skewered liver recipe is a great place to start.
Time to make
Optional: Jam, jelly, marmalade, honey, lemon
Also works with
Grill, metal or bamboo skewers
- Depending on the size of the liver, either cut it into strips or slide the whole piece onto a skewer. Several small livers will work too.
- Brush on olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Place atop hot grill for 30 to 45 seconds on each side.
- Eat as is, squirt with lemon juice, or brush with something sweet like marmalade, jam, or honey to offset the richness.