Calf’s Liver with Scallions, Sherry and Pancetta from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

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For those who consider liver and onions comfort food, this Calf’s Liver with Scallions, Sherry and Pancetta is a perfect treat.

I am asking you to stand as my witness as I make this promise to Dudette.

My daughter, I will never force you to eat liver. You’ve had to taste it once and may have to taste it again here and there  throughout the years, but you’ll never be made to eat a full portion, or even swallow those occasional test bites. I promise.

I was forced to eat liver. I remember watching my mother pick it up and move it from the container to the frying pan. It looked like an enormous leech. It was slimy and a nasty, nasty shade of dark red. Even though she had already fried onions in bacon prior to adding the liver, as soon as that slippery mess hit the skillet, the whole house smelled of liver. For a long time.

To this day, I don’t eat liver. I can’t stand the taste of it. I do make it though. It’s one of Hubby’s favorite dishes. It just about makes me gag to chase the slabs of organ-part around, getting them to the skillet before they ooze through my fingers. But I do it because I love him. And because the aroma of liver as it cooks reminds me of my mother. And I love her.

But, I also love Dudette. So I won’t force her to eat this liver tonight.  You’ll have to live without her review.

The Process
Prep-wise, it doesn’t get much easier. Three thin slices of pancetta get chopped and a bunch of scallions get thinly sliced. That’s it. Unfortunately, easy prep doesn’t mean that the process isn’t gross.

For instance, the liver get soaked in milk for fifteen minutes. I thought liver on its own was disgusting to handle, but trying to fish it out of pink milk after the soaking so I could pat it dry tested me to my upchucking limit. Then, it needs to be patted dry. It’s impossible. It sticks to the paper towels and tries to disintegrate.

However, I eventually got past those steps and put the liver slices in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. That helped. A little.

To start cooking, heat oil then add the pancetta and saute it until it’s nice and crisp. Remove the pancetta, add more oil, then add the coated liver. Cook just about 2 minutes per side (or so the magazine says). Plate it.

Add more oil to the skillet, then add the scallions. Once they’re softened, pour in cream sherry and a bit of water and add salt and pepper.

Reduce the scallion sauce a bit, remove it from heat, add butter and stir until it’s incorporated. Spoon it over the liver, then sprinkle the pancetta over everything and serve.

The Verdict
Hubby needed the liver cooked more. Once that was done, he said that this recipe is very good. He thought that there was Worcestershire sauce in there so the cream sherry does add some good flavor. Both pieces were consumed quickly, which is a good sign.

I did eat a bite after making sure that the ratio of pancetta and scallion to liver was very uneven. I didn’t hate it. Did I eat more? No. Would I eat it if it was the only food on a desert island and I was starving? Yes, as long as there was a heaping mound of the scallion sauce (which was excellent) and pancetta.

My mom’s and Hubby’s mom’s liver still ranks higher than this, but I’m glad that it was a dish my man was able to enjoy.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d skip the milk bath. I know it’s supposed to pull out the bitterness from the liver, but that’s based on the use of older cow livers. This was a very tender, young calf liver. And seriously, the pink milk thing is absolutely disgusting. Even if it’s what caused me to not hate this, I still dislike it enough not to want to dredge through pink milk.

Calf’s Liver with Scallions, Sherry and Pancetta - print this recipe
from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008

2 (1/2-inch-thick) slices calf’s liver (1/2 lb total)
1/2 cup milk
3 thin slices pancetta, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (1 small bunch)
1/4 cup cream Sherry
2 tablespoons water

Soak liver in milk 15 minutes.

Cook pancetta in 1 tsp oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet.

Discard milk and pat liver dry. Stir together flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on a piece of wax paper or a plate and dredge liver in mixture, knocking off excess.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to fat in skillet and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Cook liver, turning once, until browned but still pink in center, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to plates.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium- high heat, then sauté scallions until softened, about 1 minute. Add Sherry, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and boil until reduced slightly, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in remaining Tbsp butter until incorporated. Spoon over liver and sprinkle with pancetta.

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