Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I’m finally reading Michael Pollan’s book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma.

All I can say is: WOW!

The book starts with corn, and shows how that kernel has managed to change the world of farming and of medicine, too, as in creating a host of problems like diabetes, overweight, et al.

It is a sad thing, but Pollan clearly lays out how cheap corn has ruined farmers while it’s created corporate winners, and has skewed what taxpayers think is a federal farm program but turns out to be a corporate welfare scam.

From corn Pollan takes us to beef, which is because corn has also ruined our beef supply. By explaining how cattle used to be raised, and then by tracing how they are raised today, he shows how corn has not only changed (for the worse) cattle raising but how it also has created the conditions for those e-coli and other strange outbreaks we keep reading about in the news.

I'm not even half way through the book! Yet, this morning I told my wife that I am never going to buy beef again. Actually, I don't eat much beef, but do grab a sirloin or hanger steak every so often. No more. I'll stick with that bison meat which is minimally processed and without antibiotics.

By the way, according to Pollan, corn is the reason cattle are pumped with have to read this book.

Still, because of my relatively poor upbringing, I have always held a reverence for food that prevents me from wasting or throwing any of it out. That’s why tonight I must eat that calve's liver I have in the refrigerator—for the last time.


Here’s how I’m going to fix the liver for two:

I’ll heat a cast iron pan on high heat, with just a drop or two of olive oil.

I’ll sprinkle some crushed white pepper on one side of two slices of calve's liver and dust with flour; then, do the same on the other sides.

The liver will then go into the cast iron pan to brown on both sides—just a minute on each side. I want the inside of the liver to remain close to uncooked. I'll remove the liver from the pan and set it to cool on a chopping board.

I’ll add some olive oil to the cast iron pan and turn down the heat to low. I’ll add a large, sweet chopped onion and cook it for a minute; then, add two cloves of thinly sliced garlic, and cook for another minute after which, I’ll pour in the pan a ½ cup of sweet wine (I use Madeira or Marsala) and let it cook down a little.

While waiting, I’ll strip thyme leaves from a few stalks and put them into the pan—then, I’ll turn to the liver and chop into small pieces.

Just before adding the liver to the onions, garlic, thyme and wine, I’ll add ¼ cup of chicken stock, plus five dashes of soy sauce from the bottle and five dashes of balsamic vinegar from the bottle, mix the liquid and taste—if I need more wine, soy or vinegar to meet my standard for a balance of the flavors, I’ll add whatever is required.

Next, the liver pieces go into the pan and everything is mixed up with the flour residue causing some thickening as the ingredients are stirred. I’ll cook it for about two minutes, constantly moving things around in there and then check one piece of liver to make sure it’s how I like it—on the rare side.

With this dish, I’ll drink perhaps a Sicilian Nero D’avolo or Cerasuolo di Vittoria or maybe a Chinon or Finger Lakes Cabernet Franc—depends on what’s in the cellar.

My side dish will likely be roasted potatoes sprinkled with pepper and thyme and a drizzle of olive oil, plus an arugula salad.

I’ll stop eating beef products—right after I prepare that hanger steak that I have in the freezer. It's the last beef product that I own.


If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
March 2009. All rights reserved.


  1. Hi Thomas,
    I'm glad you're enjoying the Omnivore's Dilemma. Just please don't give up on beef. Michael Pollen didn't. He gets it, and you can too, from local farmers who are raising their cattle on grass, sustainably. It costs a little more but you can get cheaper cuts. I love a good, affordable shank braised in red wine, onions, garlic, carrots and herbs and served with some mashed root veggies.

    The calves liver you're cooking up sounds great, much better than what my mother used to do with it (boiled to death with slimy onions).

    All the best,
    Michael Welch
    Publisher, Edible Finger Lakes

  2. Michael,

    My tongue was in my cheek--mostly.

    In fact, I have a local--Keuka Lake--supplier of lamb.

    I don't really eat much beef--lost interest in it for some reason.

    Will you be at the Culinary Bounty workshop March 30 in Geneva?

    If so, maybe I'll run into you.

    Yeah, my mother could cook Southern Italian beautifully, but she had no feel for tender liver or for steak...tanning leather is what it was like.