Learning to love liver

Since we are entering what may be the sequel to the great depression (2 great 2 depressing) i think it’s high time we all got reaquainted with the American tradition of fine hobo cuisine, which is personified first and foremost by whisky a can of beans heated over a flaming barrel, and secondly by good ol’ fashioned liver. Hopefully this culinary trends precedes a full hobo renaissance.

In all seriousness, liver (and i’m not talking foie gros here, i mean liver) gets a bad rap, being that it is strong flavored, hard to work with and, well, it’s offal (pun certainly not intended) which is something that was banished from the kitchen of most Americans long before my birth.

So why eat it? Primarily because good liver done correctly is like nothing else, and secondly because we can no loger afford to waste good food. i got mine from the fine folks at TLC Ranch who do some of the finest grass-fed meat around.

So how to cook? Well since i bought a massive lamb liver i had no choice but to break it up into several meals, the first being a supremely decadent bacon-wrapped chicken with liver sauce, and the second being a basic variation on that simplest of foods, liver and onion.

i’ll start with the latter, since it is the one that more perfectly expresses what liver is all about. This recipe is adapted/stolen, once again, from Simon Hopkinson, whom i trust more than anyone besides Julia Child to tell me how to cook innards.

Begin with one calf/lamb liver, 3 thinly sliced spanish onions, vegetable oil, 1 tbsp parsley, and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar.

Heat a large pan over medium low heat, toss in some vegetable oil and the three onions, which will cook slowly for some 30 minutes. Stir often.

While this is going on get your liver out and cut 8 or so very thin (very, very thin) slices from the main piece and further cut into small squares (Hopkinson says “postage-stamp sized” and that seems as apt as it comes). Season with salt and pepper.

When the onion is about done heat up two tbsp of vegetable oil in a separate pan until smoking and throw in the liver for 20 (seriously, just 20) seconds, after which you quickly add the onions and toss until golden. Add the parsley and vinegar at this point, cook for 1 minute (this last part from starting the liver until finishing needs to be quick, other wise you come out with tough pieces) and serve immediately.

Julia Child recommends a Beaujoulais or a light Bordeaux with liver like this and while i certainly don’t disagree, i chose to go with a 2006 Thierry Puzelat Côt (what everyone else calls malbec, a bad word around my house) “Ko” which is a crazy rustic/earthy wine that retains just enough fruit to let it rise above the fray, but so radically different from the Argentinian wines from the same grape (hence my new year’s post). Really excellent stuff, and better still with such a simple down home repast. (i will do a full post on Puzelat shortly, as he seems to be the fucking man these days).

The second liver recipe is easier for me to type, harder to cook:

Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Breasts

Which we ate with a nice bottle of 2006 Andre Ostertag (another winemaker who needs a full post) Sylvaner. Full bodied, slight petrol, like a mix between a viognier and a riesling (although i prefer Ostertag’s offbeat rieslings).

What to listen to: Robert Johnson (what else?) with the liver and onions, Duke Ellington with the chicken.

~ by Cory Cartwright on January 7, 2009.

3 Responses to “Learning to love liver”

  1. first, happy new year to you two and little mountain goat! secondly, i LOVE liver and just requested that mum make it for dinner, which she did. very similar recipe though we had a sauce to accompany it, along with parsnip and potato mash. will send recipe. very nice. must try.

  2. recipe is for seared calves liver with persillade and parsnip mash. 1 kg parsnips, chopped coarsely, 1 lg potato, 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup cream, 100g butter, 250g asparagus, 400g pieces calves liver, 1 shallot, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1 tbls lemon juice, 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley. 1) boil potatoes and parsnip. crush 2 cloves garlic, mash and add cream. 2) steam asparagus 3) cut liver very thinly…rest will come tomorrow, sorry!

    The rest:

    pat liver dry with absorbent paper. melt about 1 tbls of butter in large frying pan. cook liver quickly, in batches over high heat until browned both sides and cooked as desired (do not overcook). cover to keep warm.

    to make persillade, heat butter in same pan. finely chop remaining garlic; cook garlic and finely chopped shallot, stirring until shallot softens. add stock and juice; bring to a boil, stirring. remove from heat. stir in parsley. serve sliced liver with parsnip mash and asparagus. top liver with persillade.

  3. Thanks Anna. I hope everything is well down in Australia, tell your mum and Kate hi for me. Now I just have to convince Em to eat liver again…

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