Sunday, August 23, 2009

In Which I am Determined to like Liver

I knew someone once who was determined to like sea urchin roe, even though it disgusted him every time he tried it. When I asked him why, he seemed puzzled and said he hadn't really thought about it, finally concluding that it seemed like he should be able to like it, that as an amateur foodie he ought to overcome this food phobia, and that the challenge of it made the whole thing more exciting. I thought he was weird.

I have found my sea urchin roe nemesis. It is called Beef liver. It is one of those things I think I can and will enjoy, and in my mind has a particular appeal to it - in fact, I can actually imagine how it tastes, and it tastes good. Crispy fried, tender on the inside, with onions, bacon and gravy, I am drooling thinking about it. It has been a few years since I had the desire to try liver (last time was around 2005, I think, not a particularly successful attempt), but earlier this summer, I read a passage in Julie and Julia that reinstated the bizarre urge. In the book, she describes a delicious-sounding calf liver dish that is pan-fried, then baked with breadcrumbs in a delectable sauce that is creamy, rich and wonderful. Ooh. How could that possibly not be enjoyable? Second time's a charm?

Enthusiastically, I bought a pound of grass-fed, organic beef liver but continually chickened out of making it. What if I hated it? What if I could never like liver? It stared at me every time I opened the freezer door. I had returned the copy of Julie and Julia, so I couldn't turn back to it for inspiration. Then last week, after several discussions about cooking liver with D's mum and uncle, I finally got the nerve to cook this thing.

A pound is a lot for two people, so I would use half for our dinner, and half for a pate. I forgot to get D's mum's recipe before we left Deep River, so I used an Emeril recipe I found online - Calf's Liver with Bacon, Caramelized Onions and Sherry. Title sounded good.

Here is a tiny tiny photo stolen from Food Network.
Sorry I don't have a picture, but I was too hot and grease-covered to think about pulling out the camera.

I soaked the liver in milk...caramelized onions...crisped bacon....breaded with seasoned flour...pan-fried to a beautiful golden brown...deglazed the pan with sherry...made a delicious gravy with some beef stock and smelled sooo good. D kept hovering about the kitchen, unable to resist the enticing smells of frying onions, bacon, butter and booze. We plated it up with some mashed potatoes and dug in. The verdict? Tasty! Yummy! first. I actually really enjoyed the first 5 or 6 bites I had. It was perfectly cooked, still tender inside. The sauce was great. But then suddenly it tasted too grainy, iron-y, livery and the texture and flavour started grossing me out. Plus, the thinner part of the liver cutlet tasted more liver-y than the thicker part, which I didn't like. Maybe I overcooked those bits.

To be fair though, the recipe itself was a success, if you were a capable, normal-eater of beef liver. D seemed to thoroughly enjoy his plate and polished off practically the whole thing. He informed me that if I didn't like this dish, than I would probably never like liver. My conclusion is that my liver enjoyment limit, served as a dinner entree, is a maximum of 3-4 ounces and must be disguised in breading and smothered with lots of sauce and bacon.

That still left me with the other half pound of liver to contend with. I couldn't face cooking more liver (even for a pate), so I left it until this morning to sort out. I made the pate this morning and it is now sitting in three cute little ramekins in the fridge, mellowing and developing its flavours. I am so sick of tasting beef liver pate. I still have a lingering liver taste in my mouth and throat even after brushing my teeth twice. I think the pate is good, but I'll have to ask D. I'll report back on that.

I haven't given up on hope on chicken and duck livers. I'm thinking that it's the beefiness I am averse to, and I've read that chicken is milder, sweeter and silkier in texture. I hope all this perseverance is rewarded.


Allen said...

Hi Jenny, I think the trick is to use fresh liver, don't stick it in the freezer. It just doesn't really freeze very well in my opinion, it changes the texture.

Also, I think you should start simple so you get more of a feel for the liver itself without it being clouded by too many other flavours.

Forget about all those fancy foodie recipes for now and just get a hold of a half pound of beef or pork liver. Cut into strips 1/4 inch thick, marinate it in some oil and soy sauce (and/or salt) for half an hour and then throw it in an oiled pan, as if you were frying an egg. Don't overcook them, tough dry liver is gross. Fry up some juicy sliced onions too, to just this side of caramelizing, that goes well with the liver.

Liver is one of those things I find that my body will declare an inviolable upper limit to. Once I hit that limit, that's it. Even another mouthful is too much. So stop when your body tells you to stop.


Susan said...

Blech! Sorry but i really don't like liver...i have tried chicken liver, my Dad made it a lot when i was little, with bacon, i just pecked out the bacon and left the liver. Just to mushy grainy eeuy yucky for me!