Friday, October 19, 2012

Liver and onions

Eastside Road, October 18, 2012—
SHOOT: COMPLETELY FORGOT to take any photos. Too bad, because I was otherwise in complete control. For weeks I've been hungering for liver and onions — more specifically, fegato alla veneziana, one of the Hundred Plates, one of the great dishes of the world. Not one restaurant we've been to lately has liver and onions on the menu. But Saturday the rancher who sells his beef at the Healdsburg Farmers Market had liver, so I bought a pound and a half, and invited a couple of friends over to share it.

Fegato veneziana is made with calf's liver, not beef, but there's no calf to be had this time of year, not locally. I put the sliced liver into a stainless-steel bowl, covered it with milk, and let it stand in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

I made polenta using Cesare Casella's recipe: a quart and a half of cold water, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a couple of teaspoons of salt, a cup and a half of polenta, brought to a soft boil while constantly stirring, then reduced to the slowest possible simmer and allowed to cook for forty-five minutes or so. Along the way I had to add more water: I think the ratio should be six to one, water to polenta.

A true fegato veneziana, I read in a couple of sources, contains as much onion as liver, measured by weight. I sliced the white onions thin thin thin, using the mandoline, and cooked them slow slow slow in butter and olive oil, in the big cast-iron skillet. They and the polenta held while we watched the news and had a glass of white wine with friends.

Then I turned the flame on under the polenta again, and under the skillet too. When the onions finally began to take on the faintest possible color I added four small figs, cut into slices, and stirred them in; then pushed them off to the side and turned the heat up considerably to cook the liver, which I'd drained, rinsed, dried, and cut into strips about a quarter inch wide, rejecting the skin and veins. It takes only a couple of minutes to cook the liver; you don't want it getting overdone and tough. Salt and pepper, of course.

It all went onto a platter — liver, polenta, and onions, in separate and equal windrows — and I deglazed the skillet with wine vinegar, stirring, and then poured the resulting sauce over the liver. The four of us polished it off, every bit of it, though there's polenta left over, to be grilled tomorrow.

Green salad; sliced tomatoes; and an apple crisp Lindsey made for dessert. What a fine dinner!
White Rhone blend, "Madam Preston," 2010, Preston of Dry Creek (complex and serious yet refreshing); Cabernet sauvignon, "Claret," Black Label Series, Francis Coppola, 2002: mature, reserved, fruity (thanks, Kendall)

1 comment:

George Mattingly said...

I'm adding this to my to-do list. Sounds wonderful. I love liver, despite the fact that my mom absolutely destroyed it (once a week, every year I lived at home). Her strategy? Cook it for an hour. If it wasn't tender then (and of course it wasn't), cook it for another half hour or so. And on and on. Once it had been transformed into Buster Brown Shoe leather, she served it, saying "Well Dad got us another tough liver didn't he?"