It is an ingredient that is generally accompanied by “skepticism”, because appearance, color, texture and above all origin make it different from the classic cuts of meat: yet, the liver is a precious food, one of the protagonists of the so-called fifth quarter of animals, and is the protagonist of some recipes of the great Italian tradition. So let’s find out how to cook liver and what dishes we can prepare with this versatile and surprising ingredient.
What is liver and how many types of the animal liver are there in cooking
As we know, the liver is a vital organ of animals and is part of the so-called fifth quarter of meat, or the set of edible cuts that are obtained from the animal in addition to the classic four quarters in which the carcasses are usually divided.
It is therefore a central ingredient of the “recovery cuisine”, the traditional gastronomic art of the past, born during periods of poverty, when throwing away even a small part of food was unimaginable, and then rediscovered for flavors and nutritional qualities even today. Specifically, the liver is part of the red offal along with the spleen, kidneys, tongue and heart, and generally has a good content of proteins, vitamins A and B and mineral salts, but also provides a high intake of cholesterol (so pay attention to the quantities!).
In Mediterranean cuisine and in those of other traditions, beef or beef liver is consumed more frequently – preferably veal, because it has a delicate flavor – but we can also buy and prepare pork and horse liver, chicken, duck, or rabbit livers, without forgetting the famous goose liver, which in France decline in one of the most famous (and disputed) foods in the world, or foie gras; In recent years, then, the alimentary use of liver of some fish such as tuna, sea bass, and grouper has also spread.
Understandably, each type of liver differs in price, size, flavors, and therefore method of preparation and cooking.
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How to cook the liver
From a gastronomic point of view, the liver has a soft texture and a strong flavor tendentially, which therefore makes it necessary to use aromas and spices that dampen these notes, which can be too intense for many palates.
It is preferable not to eat raw liver because it could be dangerous for the body, but clean it well and cook it for pasteurization; in particular, if we have a piece of whole liver in our hands we should subject it to special treatment before cooking it: first, we will wash it and remove the outer membrane that protects it, cutting the veins and eliminating them with kitchen scissors, and then cut the piece into slices.
Another basic piece of information, which applies to all types of animal liver, is not a food that keeps for a long time, so it should be cooked within a short time of purchase.
In any case, it is an ingredient that does not necessarily need hours and hours of cooking, but it proves to be very versatile and becomes the protagonist of many second courses, such as the famous Venetian liver, the Finanziera, the Roman liver and many other regional variations, often in combination with onions or, as mentioned, other condiments Particularly tasty and savory, such as apples, dried fruit or mustard, which contrast with the sweetness its acid and bitter aftertaste.
According to scholars, the ancient Romans had already experienced these combinations, and the very name of this food would confirm it: the word liver, in fact, could derive from the Latin “ficatum”, because in a recipe of the time it was combined with figs.
Returning to the present, we can also prepare a tasty liver pate with which to season croutons or canapés for appetizers, or simple stews or look in the butcher shop for special preparations with this ingredient, such as sausages or liver mortadella (raw or cooked).
How to cook liver: cooking methods
Moving on to the technical aspects, after the preliminary operations we will move on to cooking the offal, choosing one of the many methods we have available – depending on the time and the result we want, since this meat base can be used to make second courses, but also appetizers and side dishes.
The simplest and fastest solution is to prepare the liver cooked on the grill or grilled, having the foresight to use a piece of the liver not too fat or maybe a delicious pork liver sausage (as per tradition of Abruzzo cuisine). Equally quick and easy are the recipes of the grilled liver, but you need to marinate the meat in milk for about two hours before passing it over the fire.
Some types of liver, such as chicken, turkey, lamb and wild boar, are particularly suitable for cooking in a pan, to be accompanied with apples (especially wild boar) or to be revisited in a risotto that refers directly to the peasant tradition. Always in the pan, we can cook tempting liver rolls, wrapping thin slices of meat stuffed with bacon and stringy cheese.
The main recipes with liver
Among the various types of liver, the most consumed and appreciated is veal liver, with a much more delicate flavor than beef, from which it also differs for its lighter color.
Veal liver is the basic ingredient of various dishes of traditional Italian cuisine: among others, we remember the aforementioned Venetian liver (which is prepared with onions and white wine vinegar), the Vicenza liver (where meat and onions fade with white wine), the Florentine liver (cut into not too thin slices that are floured before cooking in a pan with extra virgin olive oil and sage for a creamier effect) and the Genoese liver (which is traditionally seasoned with the typical garlic sauce, a sort of ancestor of pesto alla genovese).
In addition, in Venetian gastronomy there is also another recipe with veal liver, a special pate that combines onions stewed in a pan and liver cut into thin slices, smoothies and then put to solidify before becoming an appetizer or delicious hunger breaker during the aperitif, spreading the mixture on slices of toast.
With chicken livers we can instead prepare the classic Piedmontese finanziera (which recovers various chicken offal, including ridges) and the typical Tuscan pate to be served on Florentine bread, while pork liver can also be cooked to make meatballs or croquettes.