I should point out (as well as asking you to excuse my dodgy Italian) that this isn’t actually Antonio Carluccio’s recipe for calf’s liver, but it’s something I cook from time to time which, for me, recaptures my favourite dish from long hung-over lunches with my friend Max in the Islington branch of Carluccio’s restaurant.
What’s that? Calf’s liver? Yes. Fegato is calf’s liver.
Living in California, the pervasive attitude of horror that Americans have towards offal is a source of endless amusement to me. Even more amusing is the peculiarly American euphemism “variety meats”, which leaves me with a mental image of a beefsteak in a top-hat singing vaudeville tunes.
Liver, done just right, has a fantastic melt-in-the-mouth texture and a distinctive, rich flavour which is hard to beat. It’s also full of nutrients.
Anyway, this is how I capture the London/Italian way of serving it.
The Boring Bits
- Serves 2
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 2 slices of calf’s liver
- 12 smallish potatoes
- 3 cups (750ml) boiling water
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp of dried rosemary
- 6 tbsp of virgin olive oil
Throwing it all together
This is so easy it hurts.
Wash the potatoes (you got fresh ones, right?) and chuck them into a saucepan of the aforementioned boiling water. Add more water if they’re not covered. You want to par-boil them, so leave them at a simmer for around 10 minutes.
The garlic needs to be chopped. I find the easiest way is to place each unpeeled clove on a chopping board, place the blade of the knife flat on top of it, and press down reasonably hard. The skin should flake away as the clove crushes. Then just separate out the crushed chunks and chop them up lengthways.
Place the garlic and the rosemary in a roasting tin and mix in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil. Once the potatoes are done drain them and throw them into the roasting tin. Mix them well with the oil/garlic/rosemary so that they get a good coating of oil.
You can add a couple of pinches of salt at this point if you like – I find that it tends to make the skins of the potatoes crispier.
Now put the potatoes into the oven and roast them at 400F (200C) for about half an hour, stirring them up every 10 minutes or so to ensure they roast evenly.
After your last stir of the potatoes (10 minutes before the end of the cooking), take your slices of calf’s liver, and coat them with half a tablespoon of the olive oil each.
Brush the remaining oil (1 tablespoon) onto a grilling pan. I actually use one similar to this. The ridges in the pan will add some professional-looking scorch-marks to the meat (which is how I remember my favourite dish in London), and the fact that most of it isn’t in direct contact with the pan means that the outside won’t become tough.
Pre-heat the pan over a high heat, turning to medium once you can feel the warmth through the pan with your hand 3 or 4 inches away. Now simply place the calf’s liver onto the pan and grill for around 5 minutes (longer if you’re squeamish and don’t mind tough liver). Turn the meat every minute or so to ensure it doesn’t stick and is cooked evenly.
Once the outside of the liver has browned remove it from the pan and transfer to some plates. The potatoes should be ready at just the same time, so serve those up, discarding most of the oil. You can keep some of the rosemary and garlic – the chunks should have caramelised nicely in the oil. Or, depending on your oven, they may have burned. Throw the burnt bits away, dummy!
Now tuck in! Although there’s no sauce involved the potatoes should retain a nice moistness when cooked this way, and the meat itself requires no extra moisture.
This is an unbelievably simple meal but it makes a beautiful, rich-yet-light weekend lunch. Obviously you can increase the quantities to serve more with ease.
I should also note that, whilst liver is still available in some British supermarkets, you’re not going to find anything except the occasional pot of chicken liver in a large American store. For proper calf’s liver you’ll need to look for a local quality butcher, possibly one who specialises in foreign food like the excellent Dittmers in Mountain View.