Liver is a real divider in the world of food. My mother and I came up with a theory many years ago that there is only one liver lover in each generation of a family. She was the one in her family and I'm the one in mine. It means that you are obliged to eat it in restaurants or sneak in a guilty slice when you have the kitchen and the home to yourself. I remember once, years ago, a boyfriend came come earlier than I expected and caught me in flagrante delicto with a piece of beef liver. He stormed around the apartment, slamming open windows and huffing about the smell. It was never a relationship based on compromise and good will.
Since then, I've realised that calf's liver is the foie gras of the bovine world and a thousand times better than the beef version. It's tender and when cooked properly fairly melts in your mouth. The flavour is more subtle too, less gamey than the beef. However, I still make it when the Critic is away. In fact, for many years it was the secret feast of the cat and myself. When I went to the butcher, I would claim an imaginary guest and ask for two thin slices. And now there is the boy. He likes it. He likes the fact that I eat it too - he's at that stage where food is inherently more interesting if an adult is eating it. And he was tickled PINK when I fed some to the kitty. What kind of silly food is that??
There are two classic ways that I know of preparing calf's liver: the American and the French. In my usual straddle-both-sides-of-the-issue way, I tend to have a nod in each direction. Americans like liver and bacon with it. Yum, grease and salt. The French usually have a simple dribble of red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan. Savoury and rich. I generally keep the bacon and the vinegar, though I go easy on the vinegar for the section destined for the cat.
Franco-American Calf's Liver (serves one adult, one toddler and a greedy cat)
2 thin slices of calf's liver
4-6 slices of American style bacon (none of these British rashers, please!)
3-4 Tbs red wine vinegar
Fry the bacon in a frying pan until nice and crisp. Set aside on a bed of paper towels to drain. Depending on how much fat the bacon has given up, you can either pour off some of the grease or add a little butter so that you have a tablespoon or so of fat in the pan. (It will probably be the former rather than the latter.) Turn up the heat on the pan and when it's nice and hot slap in the liver slices. They should sizzle. Cook for a minute or two and then flip them over. The secret to nice, tender liver is a high flame and frequent turning (according to a French grandmother who lectured me on liver and so far I have not proven her wrong). When it's just barely cooked through - a little pink in the center is alright - remove to a plate. Spill the vinegar in the pan and slosh it around quickly, scraping the bottom of the pan a bit to get up the bits of meat. When it is reduced by half (it won't take long at all) pour it over the liver and serve with the bacon. Despite the bacon fat - which is salty - I find that a generous hand with the salt and pepper makes this dish even better. A baked potato or a hunk of crusty bread won't go amiss either, to sop up those lovely juices.
I loved it. The boy liked it (the concept more than the taste). The cat liked it. The Critic doesn't know what he's missing sometimes...