Liver and onions, meat and two veg…hardly. A show of hands if you ate this as a kid, with dry liver perhaps? Ok, now keep your hands up if the onions were burnt…not painting a good picture, I know. Liver does not have to be dry or boring, there’s so much you can do with it and it’s very simple and quick to cook. I remember having liver and onions as a kid, I’m sure my dad cooked it for me and my brother once, and I’m not sure if it was that I liked it as such or if I just enjoyed eating the liver of an animal in an attempt to horrify my brother or summon superhuman powers. Hey, we were kids.
I don’t eat as much liver as I should or as I want to, but whenever I am out at a restaurant and see it on a menu it always seems to draw me in. This is my attempt to just change it and mix it up a little bit. Meat and two veg, liver and onions but with a twist. Traditionally in England and around Europe they use pork, beef or lamb’s livers, but more popular now are calf’s liver. It’s usually served with mashed potatoes or boiled potatoes… doesn’t sound that exciting right? My take on this classic stays close to the basic flavours and roots of this dish but with a broader European inffluence, a few different techniques and overall, a more palatable experience.
To start im using calf’s liver crusted in polenta, and sweet local carrots to balance out the liver’s bitter taste. Next, freshly made potato gnocchi tossed through a crispy sage and brown butter sauce. And all this will be served on smooth carmelised onion cream, just to add a touch of luxury.
If your butcher is good the liver should be nice and clean, with all connective tissue and alot of the sinew and skin removed. If not, it is simple and easy to clean. Carefully use a sharp knife to neaten up the liver and trim off any unwanted bits. Liver does tend to have a strong taste sometimes, with a metallic hint to it. I find that by soaking your liver in milk over night in your fridge or even for about 30 minutes before you cook it can help to mellow out that strong flavor. Personal preference and the strength in flavor of your liver will determine how long you soak yours.
- Calf’s liver
- approx. 5 tbsp of polenta
- 7-10 sage leaves
- Vegetable (I used carrots)
- 1 large white onion
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 2-3 medium potatoes ( I used maris pipers)
- 1/4 cup of flour
- 2 tbsp of good butter
- 1 egg yolk
Before we begin, I made my own gnocchi for this dish but it’s not essential. Making the gnocchi may take a bit of practice and will be trial and error, but if you want to try this variation of liver and onions you can always buy the gnocchi, or use mash or any other favorite to compliment the liver. If you have some extra time then refer to my blog a couple of weeks ago for a quick turtorial!
Let’s assume you’ve made the gnocchi and you are feeling pretty pumped, it gets a lot easier now. Next comes the carmelised onion cream. Simply slice the onion, not too thin or they will burn, and cook in a heavy bottomed pot in a few table spoons of oil on a medium heat. As the onions cook and carmelise some bits may start to stick to the bottom. If this happens add a touch of water to loosen it up and the water will steam away and not affect the cooking process, but make it easier to deglaze the pan. Once it’s a nice golden brown carmelized color, add the cup of cream and turn down low, constantly moving to infuse the cream and to keep it from burning. As soon as the cream has taken on that color of the onions, take off the heat and put into your blender to blitz until smooth. Pass it through a sieve, season and set to the side.
Now cook the vegetables you are going to use. I’ve used some beautiful local carrots and simply blanched them in seasoned water with a touch of butter. Once that’s taken care of, on to the calf’s liver.
Heat a pan and pat dry your calf’s liver. Coat it in the polenta by simply dredging it through, making sure all sides are covered. Meanwhile, get some water on the boil to cook your gnocchi in. It won’t take long, so cook your liver first and then the gnocchi. A drop of oil in the pan, cook the liver for about one minute on each side so that it is nice and pink. Once cooked set aside on a plate to rest, and drop your gnocchi into the boiling water.
Return to the pan you just cooked the liver in and add a few spoons of butter and a few sage leaves. The butter should be foaming and bubbling and slowly starting to go a nut brown (buerre noisette). The second the gnocchi has floated to the top of the pot they are ready. Now drain and put them into the pan with the butter and crispy sage. Adjust your seasoning and combine all these lovely flavors together on the plate however your inner artist compels you to.
This was my take on a classic British dish of liver and onions, what’s your take and how did you get on with your gnocchi?