Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Higado a la Italiana de mi Tata (My Tata's Liver Stirfry with Onion and Bell Pepper "Italian Style")

Tata is what we call my grandmother in my family. She is like a walking Cuban cookbook, any recipe I wanna know I simply ask I'll get one for anything that's Cuban she knows a few Spaniard dishes here and there to.

Higado a la Italiana meaning liver Italian style is a Cuban dish which I have no clue why they named it "Italian style" maybe something to do with method of preparation of marination? No clue... all I know that the recipe became popular or known when Nitza Villapol the Cuban Julia Child who became a communist introduced this dish in her cookbook "Cocina al Minuto" also Mary Urrutia Randelman shared her family version of the dish "Higado a la Italiana"

My Tata's version is neither like Nitza's nor Mary Urrutia, the reason their version of the dish is disliked or not cooked in my house is because the liver is marinaded in a lot of liquid (a generous amount of wine and vinegar with flour, salt, garlic, and pepper) a long with julienned bell peppers, onions, and a couple bay leaves. The problem is Nitza's and Mary Urrutia recipes heat oil, add bell pepper and onion and then higher heat and add liver with all marinade and stir for a few minutes like 10 THERE IS THE PROBLEM, it just boils the liver in the marinade with the bell pepper and onion... we don't like liver to be boiled liver in my house, we dislike the texture and taste obtained it causes the liver to release it's own juices and just taste blah in my opinion. (Believe me I've prepared this dish Nitza's way)

My Tata everytime we cooked liver it would be fried in very very smoking high heat until well browned on all sides. My grandmother's version is as follows:

She get's liver cut into bite sizes, very well seasoned and marinaded in vinegar, salt, lots of garlic, and smokey cumin she then fries it in very hot oil until well browned and quickly stirfry's it together with julienned onions and bell peppers and finishes seasoning it with a touch oregano or if no oregano is wanted she fries the bay leaves in the hot oil, removes and continues with the recipe. I prefer this version any day :)

Now here's the recipe with pictorials to be more specific.

-1 ½ lbs. beef liver
-12 cloves garlic (pressed through a garlic press or mashed in a mortar to a paste)
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1- 2 teaspoons salt
-2 tablespoons white vinegar
-2 medium onions julienne
-1 large or 2 small green bell peppers julienned
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 bay leaves your choice (oregano is better in my opinion)
-more salt to taste as needed.
-1/2 cup cooking oil that can withstand high heat (canola, vegetable, corn, lard, etc. )


I know it seems like A LOT of oil, but REMEMBER this is to fry the liver, you can drain and or take out some of the oil after the liver is fried, my grandmother leaves all the oil in their, my mom likes to drain some of it.

(1) Beef liver washed, cleaned, remove nerves, silver skin, and fat leave as clean as possible even if you must waste some of the liver meat. I buy 1 ½ lbs because I end up throwing ½ after cleaning. HUGE TIP when buying liver make sure your butcher shows you all sides of it because if the entire back area or not seen area has lots of nerves and holes IT IS NO GOOD tell him to get you another because nerves and other bad parts curl and give a very hard texture sometimes. UNLESS YOU ARE POOR PLEASE JJUST CLEAN IT WELL AND REMOVE ANY QUESTIONABLE AREAS THE FINAL RESULT IS WORTH IT.

(2) Now cut liver into BITE sizes and toss with vinegar, cumin, salt, and garlic.
(3) Heat a heavy skillet or wok on HIGH HEAT with generous amounts of oil ALMOST enough to pan fry you need really hot nearly smoking temperature. (about 1/2 a cup) wait until the oil starts smoking (your gonna want windows open or that filter fan in kitchens)

(4) Add liver in one layer leave alone a couple minutes until browned about 10- 15 minutes then toss to flip or move around until it is almost cooked and not pink.

(7) Add onions and bell peppers as well as oregano or bay leave and cook until onions and bell peppers pic up drippings and get rid of raw taste of onion.



She prepares this almost identical to "Higado a la Vizcaina" which is the same as this except no bell peppers, oregano, or bay leaf. Instead towards the end when the onions are soft you add cubed crispy deep-fried potatoes you previously fried and salted to add to this dish. I have a recipe post for that you can check if you like:


In addition we also make "Higado Encebollado" (fried liver steaks with onions) marinaded the same way except whole steaks are fried set aside then in drippings lots of onions are fried and used to top the liver steak check it out here if you'd like to:



Jose said...

Dude, one of the reasons I married my wife is because she is one of the few people I know who like liver as much as I do. This is her favorite preparation and I agree that it is superior to the more traditional soupy style. Awesome!

Nathan said...

Thanks try it out sometime and tell me what you think I LOOOOOOV liver too, I was feeling kinda weak and exhausted from school so I felt like I needed something packed with protien and vitamins so I had some good ole liver :)

Mamey said...

Very similar to my Mom's...yum! I love it with fresh plantain chips on the side, and pass the avocado please.

Nathan said...

I almost never have plantain chips I need to get into the habit of making them, I wish they sold giant family sized bags of it though :( when green plantains go on special then I'll probably make a big batch and blog about it :D

Anonymous said...

Great job on your blog. I have really learned a lot from your recipes. On the Higado a la Italiana, made it tonight. The pan (a wok) was really hot like you recommend, but the liver started to burn in about a couple of minutes. Toned it down, finished cooking with the other ingredients, and even with the slightly burned taste it was really good! Will try again real soon.

Dreamer said...


Anonymous said...

My better half made this for me tonight. Absolutely absolute!! Much better than the liver burgers of my childhood! Bravo!!

Nathan said...

If you liked this one you should really check my post for "Higado a la Vizcaina" (Liver Basque style? idk the translation) it is almost identical except no bell peppers, and the only spice is cumin, and it's tossedwith lots of cubed fried potatoes YUM!!!!!!!!!!

fanny said...

Nathan, Hi...thank you for posting this receipe. I made it for my brother who is ill. Your Tata's receipe is very similar to the one mom used to make. I had a taste and actually liked it, first time in my life and my brother LOVED IT!
Sure to boost the immune system :)

Nathan said...

I'm glad it worked out well :) hope he get's better soon, some good ol' Chicken soup can do wonders too :)

Dalgis Plochet said...

I just prepared this recipe for dinner and it is absolutly delicious!!! Thank you!

Nathan said...

Dalgis Plochet,
Glad you enjoyed it, buen provecho :)

Anonymous said...

OMG, the best liver I have ever made. Thank you.