calves' liver venetian style

rich is not very keen on offal. like most people these days, the thought of liver, kidneys or various 'glands' doesn't fill him with too much excitement. it's not squeamishness - i can vouch for that as he would happily eat bits of animals that i wouldn't dream of putting in my mouth. apparently it's the texture he objects to. which is funny because that's precisely why i like them.

liver and kidneys were a part of my mum's cooking repertoire. it's not something we ate all the time - maybe once a month, if that - but it was pretty standard stuff. she used to make these amazing kidneys simmered in sauce (i always think: a small enamel pan with two side handles), and pan fried chicken liver with lots of salt. so, i guess my liking for offal is inspired less by the nose-to-tail fashion and more by her.

i usually cook it when rich is away as a solitary and self-indulgent treat. unfortunately, i found this recipe in roast chicken and other stories only after i'd already bought the liver. as the dish demands VERY thin slices cut into pieces no bigger than a postage stamp, i had to do a bit of surgery on it myself. suffice it to say that i was elbow-deep in blood and what remained on the chopping board in front of me looked like a result of a particularly nasty operation.

PS though i do like offal, i've never been not too keen on brains. my mum's attempt to make us eat them by telling us it would make us clever (sorry mum but even at the age of seven i knew that was just bollocks) failed when she presented us with a heap of steaming, grey, mushy...stuff. there was no disguising what it was: it just looked like a brain on a plate, the grooves and the bulges pretty much how they'd look in a medical textbook.

for one solitary offal indulgence

1 red onion, peeled and sliced very thinly
4 thin slices of calves liver - they ought to be as thin as possible so ask your butcher to do it for you, and cut into small squares, postage stamp-size
1 tbs red wine vinegar
olive oil
a handful of finely chopped parsley

cook the onions in a frying pan in a bit of oil until they are completely cooked through and soft. it doesn't matter if they catch a little bit but the point is to cook them gently for a long time - mine took at least half an hour.

when that is done, heat some oil in another frying pan till smoking hot. season the liver with salt and pepper, then toss into the hot oil for 20 seconds or so. drain in a colander. add the onions to the pan and fry briefly until golden brown and crisping in places. now return the liver to the pan with the chopped parsley, and stir in the vinegar. that's kind of it. don't overcook it - the whole thing, from when you add the onion to the pan, shouldn't take more than a minute.


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