A bit of a departure here, into the realm of food.
For many years now, I’ve been trying to make the perfect fegato alla Veneziana, otherwise known as liver and onions. From Venice.
I do realise that I may not get out as often as I should and some people might even regard a dream of making the perfect fegato alla Veneziana as a fairly low ambition in the cosmic scheme of things. But I am of the firm belief that, if there’s a God, which there isn’t, he would very much enjoy a plate of liver and onions, if he were capable of eating it, which he isn’t because he doesn’t exist.
Be that as it may, I have to say now that I have finally perfected this dish, and I would like to share it with you. The recipe, of course, not the dish.
Now there is a lot of controversy regarding the correct way to make fegato all Veneziana, as you might expect from a recipe that was devised by Italians. Some people add sage, for example, which I did for several years in the belief that it was an essential ingredient. It isn’t.
Others finish off the dish with a sprinkling of lemon juice. Which is a waste of a lemon. And liver.
The secret is that no single flavour should dominate. No sage. No lemon. No salt. No pepper. Well, the dish does contain salt and pepper, but it shouldn’t dominate. Much.
If properly made, fegato alla Veneziana (liver and onions) is a marriage made in heaven. Or, at least, it would be if there was one.
So, first of all, the list of ingredients:
Veal liver (about 300 g)
Olive oil (a slosh)
Butter (a bit and then a bit more)
White wine (generous slosh)
Wine vinegar (not much at all)
Veal stock (just a dash – use the ready-made stuff)
Freshly ground black and white pepper (a healthy twist or three)
Sea salt (about 1 teaspoon)
Chopped parsley (a handful)
This will make a good helping for two. If you want a good helping for four, double the ingredients.
The first thing to do is to slice the veal liver. I find the best way is to slap it in the freezer to harden up for a bit and then cut it into very, very thin slices with a sharp knife. I can’t impress on you too much how sharp this knife will have to be. Test it out on Granny first.
Peel the onions and cut them in half. Then slice them very thinly using a very sharp knife (which you have tested on your wrists).
Slosh a bit of olive oil into a sauté pan – or any wide pan with high sides and a lid. Add a bit of butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the onions, stir them around, turn down the heat and then fry them slowly until golden. Not black. What you want to achieve is a bit of caramel but not too much. This will take about 15-20 minutes.
Remove the onions with a slotted spoon. Well, any spoon will do at a pinch. The object is to leave some of the juices behind but there won’t be much so I wouldn’t bother.
Turn up the heat, slosh a bit more olive oil into the pan and, when it’s very hot, add the liver.
Now this liver will cook very quickly. Keep stirring it and just make sure it’s changed colour on all sides. There will be a bit of blood but as you’ve already tested the knives on Granny and your wrists you should be used to that by now.
Then add your cooked onions, salt and pepper and stir the liver and onions together but don’t leave them to cook. Just heat them up.
Remove the liver and onions from the pan with your slotted (or unslotted) spoon and transfer to a pretty serving dish, which you have cunningly kept warm.
Now comes the tricky bit. “Deglaze” the pan with the white wine (meaning pour in the wine and stir it about), scraping up any unfortunate remnants, and add a small dash of white wine vinegar and another dash of veal stock. Add a knob of butter and allow this to foam up while stirring. Pour the result over your liver and onions and then sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Now I am aware that there are some people who do not like liver. Poor you. I suggest that you give this a try anyway as it will not taste like any liver you’ve ever tasted before, given that you have actually tasted some before.
But for true aficionados of fegato alla Veneziana, this is nothing less than what the Italians might call i testicoli del cane, if they had ever heard of the phrase.