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How to cook calf's liver

Updated February 22, 2018

Liver is an unusual meat, with its dark flavour and pulpy texture. Most people seem to share a collective memory of hating it in childhood, but coming to appreciate its virtues as an adult. The old-school tendency to cook liver well done may have been a factor, since liver becomes dry, leathery and bitter when overcooked. Calves' livers are especially delicate in flavour, and if cooked just until lightly pink and juicy can be very agreeable.

Place the calves' liver on your cutting board. Trim away any pieces of skin or vein left on the slices of liver, with a sharp knife. If the slices are large, cut them in half so they will fit your cookware.

Soak the liver in milk for 20 to 30 minutes. Pat the slices dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper and dredge them lightly in flour. Shake off any excess.

Pan-fry at medium-high temperature until just golden, then turn and do the same on the other side. Serve when still slightly pink, with crisp bacon and fried onions.

Order the calf's liver sliced one-eighth-inch thick, for an Italian version of liver and onions. Cook onions very slowly until they are golden but not brown. Turn up the heat to high, and fry the thin slices of liver very quickly, 30 to 45 seconds on each side. Add a splash of red wine to the pan and stir it to get up the browned-on juices, then finish the sauce by swirling in a lump of cold butter. Serve hot over the liver and onions.

Cut the calf's liver into squares of about one inch. Place a date or half a fig between two pieces of liver. Wrap with bacon, and skewer with a toothpick. Grill or bake until the bacon is crisp, and serve hot.

Toss squares calves' liver in a hot skillet with salt, pepper and fried onions. When the liver pieces are beginning to firm, add 60 ml (1/4 cup) of red wine. Swirl the skillet until the wine has largely evaporated, then add 10 to 12 fresh sage leaves. Toss a few more times until the sage is aromatic, and serve.

Things You'll Need

  • Sliced calves' liver
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Milk
  • Paper towels
  • Salt and pepper
  • Flour
  • Skillet
  • Bacon
  • Onions
  • Red wine
  • Butter
  • Dates or figs
  • Toothpicks
  • Fresh sage leaves
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About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.