What to call it? "Calves' liver"? That's what we say, but it's obviously absurd. Have you ever seen one? Nobody is ever going to eat several. They're huge. I roasted a whole liver once, following a recipe published by Richard Olney. It was ... unusual, but we got it down. "Calf's liver"? That's what The Joy of Cooking calls is, not unreasonably, but I've never anybody say it. As for "calf liver," which is what I usually write, it sounds disgusting. Let's just call it "foie de veau" and be done with it. Anybody can say "fwadivo."
Actually, what most people say is "Eeewww!"
What they don't know is that they've never had genuine foie de veau, which comes, like all veal, from a calf younger than twelve weeks of age. It is a luxury food. I've just ordered a pound of "calf's liver" from FreshDirect, at $4.99, just to be certain that it's not the real thing. (I'll let you know.) I don't know what I pay Holland Court, the good butcher, because their bills are appropriately inscrutable, but I've learned that the liver at Agata & Valentina ($5.99) and even at Eli's is not on a par. The real thing is rare and pricey. "Baby beef" liver, from older calves, is decidedly heavier and more ferric.
I have cured many professed liver-haters with a recipe that I learned from Julia Child, dresses the sautéed liver with a mustard, shallot, and wine concoction called Sauce Robert. It's a delicious concert of subtle flavors.
Here's how I make Foie de veau Robert for two people, using between two and four slices of liver. First, I chop up a couple of shallots. I take the mezzaluna to a couple of sprigs of parsley. I measure 2/3 of a cup each of red wine and bouillon. Then, I combine a teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of butter in a small bowl. Finally, I dredge the liver slices in seasoned flour.
By this time, I've got a hot sauté pan sizzling with a tablespoon each of butter and oil. I sauté the liver until it is browned - no more than a few minutes. Then I transfer it to a plate that can go in the microwave or a warmed oven, where it will sit while I make the sauce.
Sauté the shallots very briefly, and then deglaze the pan with the wine and the bouillon. Reduce. When the sauce thickens, whisk in the mustard-butter mixture.
If the sauce strikes me as having taken forever to reduce (patience is not among my virtues), I reheat the liver in the microwave for about thirty seconds. I don't think, however, that this is either desirable or necessary.
Arrange the liver slices on plates and then cover them with the sauce, pouring it through a strainer. Sprinkle the dish with parsley and serve at once with new potatoes or rice.
Copyright (c) 2007 Pourover Press