There are advantages to liking organ meat. For one thing, when you’ve got generous friends who raise their own beef and lamb, you’re more likely to receive all the bits of animal they and others don’t want. Yesterday, my friends Dan and Sherry dropped off at my house fresh liver and tongues from their slaughter of lamb the day before. With distaste, Sherry gingerly handed the plastic bags filled with gore. I was in heaven. Last night, I prepared the liver. Tonight, the lamb tongues.
Italy has deeply conditioned me to prefer liver prepared either by pan-searing or grilling slices. Unless, of course, that is, I’m in France. But that’s a whole other story. With the lamb liver, I decided to adapt Marcella Hazan’s fegato alla veneziana.
I found handling the fresh lamb liver very instructive. Its color was a dark mauve, a dense purple that in no way resembled the brownish burgundy color of chicken or beef liver I see in stores. The texture of the raw liver reminded me of panna cotta — silky, firm, and smooth. It had very few little bits of fat and membrane to snip off.
To prepare it, I carved the livers into slices about 1/4-inch thick. Then I cut up a big onion (one picked out of the ground the day before at Rosamaria’s ranch — oh, the joys of having friends who garden and ranch!) into thin slices. In a large, heavy skillet, I poured about 2 Tbls of olive oil and warmed it on a medium-low flames. When it was warm, I added the onions, spread them evenly around the skillet, set the timer for 10 mins, and left them undisturbed until the ten minutes were up. I stirred them around and set the timer again for 10 mins. And then another.
This is my way of caramelizing onions — leave them be as much as possible on a low heat. It takes patience, but it’s worth it.
Once the onions had softened and slightly caramelized (I could have left them much longer), I took them out of the pan, stuck them on a plate and put them in the oven to keep warm. Then I poured another slug of olive oil in the skillet and turned up the heat. When the oil was hot, I lay slices of liver in. They cook pretty quickly. I think it’s important not to cook liver too much, so it’s good to stand right by it and watch the color change. Liver browns very easily. As the slices finished — about 1 minute or so aside — I put the slices one by one on the plate with onions in the oven to keep them warm. When I’d finished them all, I ground pepper over them and salted the onions
For wine, I chose a bottle of Goose Ridge Red Table Wine, which turned out to be a good choice. It’s a big wine, lots of raspberry, as well as chocolate undertones.