Some will never like liver, but many will like this

Ask the Chef

February 16, 2003|By Jim Coleman & Candace Hagan | Jim Coleman & Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

I grew up eating liver and onions and still love it to this day. However, I can't get my family to try it. Do you have a sure-fire recipe that you can share?

If I could come up with a sure-fire liver recipe that everyone in the whole world liked (including my brother-in-law, Lester, who swears he will never eat the stuff as long as he lives), then I would be living in the Caribbean because I would have the magic touch.

A universally liked liver recipe would probably generate world peace, or at least peace in my family, which may be just as hard to bring about. But, no matter how perfectly you prepare liver (which I happen to love, but that isn't saying much, since I like everything), there will always be some people who won't like it and a few who won't even try it.

But I like a challenge, and we may win some converts in your family with this recipe.

The first thing you need to start with is fresh calf's liver. The reason liver needs to come from a young animal is because of its function in the body. The liver acts as a filter for substances that enter the body, and it tends to store up unwanted chemicals.

So it makes sense that the older the animal, the more unwanted substances in the liver, and these will give off an unpleasant odor and make it tough.

Once you have your calf's liver, the first thing you do is soak it in milk, which will leach out any impurities. Some recipes say to soak liver in milk for two hours, but I believe it is better to do it overnight.

The other important point to remember is not to overcook calf's liver. Someone somewhere down the line got the bright idea that liver should be cooked until it shrivels up. And they wonder why people don't like it. Liver has very little fat and should be cooked only until medium-rare to keep it at its tastiest.

Jim Coleman is executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a cookbook author and host of television and radio cooking shows. Candace Hagan is a food writer and cookbook author.

Favorite Liver and Onions

eight 3-ounce portions of calf's liver

3 cups milk

4 ounces bacon, cut into 1-by- 1/4 -inch pieces

1 medium onion

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons white wine

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups all-purpose flour, for dredging

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

good balsamic vinaigrette

Place the liver in a large dish, cover with milk, and refrigerate overnight.

In a large skillet, saute the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered -- about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the skillet. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat and place the skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until caramelized. Return the bacon to the skillet and add the sage, salt, and pepper. Deglaze the skillet with the wine and cook for 2 minutes, loosening up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Add the stock and cook until heated through. Pour in the cream and reduce the liquid by one-third.

Remove the liver from the milk. Dredge the liver in the flour and season it with salt and pepper. In another skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the liver for 3 minutes on each side until medium-rare. Place the liver on plates, and top with the cream sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette.

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