fegato alla veneziana

October 28th, 2008 · 45 Comments

so here’s the deal. i love calf’s liver. but i rarely get to have it because it’s seemingly not very popular here in these southern parts. up until recently, i couldn’t even procure a piece unless i committed to the entire liver. which was not going to happen – my love knows bounds…

but saturday we were at ‘whole foods’ and while perusing the meat case, i spotted some, all shimmery and liver’y. it must be a new product addition to our particular store, so as you might imagine, i was pretty excited. cary won’t touch the stuff so we bought him a dry aged ny strip and i got my calf’s liver – which, if calculating ounce for ounce is 1/3 the price. (note: they charged me for a veal rack instead of the liver – which was double the price. i noticed this when i got home and now i have to deal with it, though ‘whole foods’ is always good about this kind of thing.)

as a kid, my mom would make this on occasion and i’d be lying if i told you that i was happy about it at the time. but in those days we ate what was served and grimaced through the dinner. there was no feeding it to the dog we didn’t have. there was no hiding chewed up and spit out mouthfuls in my napkin and dumping the contents into houseplants or behind the drapes. i ate it. it wasn’t my favorite, but i lived to tell the tale and learned to not only appreciate calf’s liver, but to actually love it. especially when i first had it served with apples and bacon. total wow…

this past july when i was in nyc i had a great lunch at felidia’s, with my secundo being an amazing calf’s liver dish. it was served with a mix of farro and polenta and the meat was finished with sautéed shallots and a reduction of balsamic vinegar. it was definitely one of the better things that i had eaten that trip – hands down. so this was an opportunity to recreate it. and i love a challenge, minor as this one might have been.

so i grabbed my molto italiano book and with mario’s help (on page 405), he once again showed me the way, the light and the truth. for the polenta, i kept it pretty light and simple and just added some grated parmigiano at the end.

fegato alla veneziano
inspired by lidia bastianich from felidia restaurant in nyc
adapted from
molte italiano by mario batali

flour seasoned with salt and pepper to dredge the liver
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/2 lb. calf’s liver cut into 1/4" slices
1 cup sliced shallots
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T chopped parsley

heat the olive oil in a 10" sauté pan until very hot but not smoking and add the butter. when the foam subsides, dredge the liver in the seasoned flour and cook until brown on one side, about 4 minutes. transfer the liver to a warm plate.

add the shallots to the pan and cook until very soft, about 6 minutes. add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper. place the liver on top of the onions, uncooked side down, reduce heat to medium and cook until just cooked through – about 5 minutes.

so i got it all together, plated it as nicely as i was willing, snapped a few photos, poured myself a glass of a surprisingly good argentinean malbec (terrazas reserva 2004) and took a bite…

really bad. like, really really b.a.d.

it was the liver. something was off. not rotten, more like, well, shitty. as in shit tasting. as in if i had ever eaten shit, which although proverbially, i may have – in reality i have not – but had i, i would imagine this would be close to what it would be like.

and i’m trying to figure out where i went wrong. or was it just the meat? did i dredge it too early? did i undercook it for fear of overcooking it? i can’t figure it out… the buttery shallots with balsamic were truly wonderful and the polenta was just right for the dish. as i gingerly ate the end pieces of the liver which were seemingly the least offensive, i sadly realized, i had to let it go.

but i have cats! and so i cut it all up into little pieces and gave it to my little guy merle. and he scarfed it down like there’d be no tomorrow. he’s almost 15 and weighs less than 7 lbs and he likes to eat animals. preferably dead and cooked as his hunting days are now behind him.

then the little guy went to sleep.

an hour later i heard it.

he puked it all up.

Tags: bad · polenta · veal

45 responses so far ↓

  • 1 [eatingclub] vancouver || js // Oct 28, 2008 at 12:44 am

    Oh that was too bad. The picture looked lovely. I will be waiting for the update of what did go wrong.

  • 2 Chris // Oct 28, 2008 at 1:34 am

    Poor Merle.
    Lovely polenta.

  • 3 ntsc // Oct 28, 2008 at 3:53 am

    It may simply be that the liver was bad, but not yet smelling. Liver has a far shorter shelf/refrigerator life than red meat.

    I’ve always like calves liver chicken liver as an entree and use lots of pork liver in various pates.

    Take a serving(s) of chicken livers, salt, pepper and a little garlic (or not – vampires in your house?) and saute until not quite cooked. Add an equal weight of thick cream of mushroom soup and bring to serving temperature. (Originally the soup came in a red & white can, it is homemade now).

    Probably any cream of vegetable soup you like will work fine. You might toss in a little bacon or pancetta as well.

  • 4 Robert // Oct 28, 2008 at 6:16 am


    Beautiful plate. When Liver is good, it is to die for. As you now know, when it is bad, it is to die over.

    Sorry kid, I’m sure it didnt build any confidence on Cary’s part either. Don’t give up though, next time it will proably be fabulous. Liver is a “Simple is best” kinda thing.

    Using pets as food testers is alittle questionable……….

  • 5 jim voorhies // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Ah well, look at the bright side. At least it was only liver. :)

  • 6 Julia // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Oh, I was so excited for you too… I was thinking I would make the liver with apples and onions since it sounded so good….the heartbreak of it all…. The polenta looks tasty though…

  • 7 Lauren // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:39 am

    well, liver. yuck is all i can say. and, the picture doesn’t do merle justice. poor little guy.

  • 8 Lynn // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:43 am


    You have a little liver…right there…on your left whisker…no down a tad.

    Sorry about the disappointment. Truly a bummer.

  • 9 Zora // Oct 28, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Ooh yeah, liver goes bad _fast_–like, you want to eat it within a couple of days of it coming out of the animal. And it kind of creeps me out that they were selling it in small pieces at the Whole Foods. Like exposing more parts of it to air (even shrink-wrapped air) would not be good for it at all–though that’s not scientific, just an innate squeamish reaction.

    Alas. Fresh liver is so delish.

    Incidentally, I recently had very fresh kidney, and it was actually great. Prior to that, I thought all kidneys tasted like pee. I wonder if all the people who hate liver are reacting to a hint of un-fresh-ness? (Also, overcooked-ness…but that’s another problem.)

  • 10 jodycakes // Oct 28, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I just cannot do liver…as in calf’s liver…my parents used to throw it on the grill with onions…bleck.
    But I do know that if it were something loved and adored, and it isn’t quite what you were expecting that is a real drag.
    sorry merle didn’t like it either…funny thing…my beast is 14 and she throws up EVERYTHING nowadays…little sensitive stomach, methinks

  • 11 cookiecrumb // Oct 28, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Well, you know what they say in the culinary arts: Don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink; don’t poison your cat with liver you wouldn’t eat.

  • 12 maybelles mom // Oct 28, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Alright, I already don’t like liver so much, now I feel even more off liver.

  • 13 Diana // Oct 28, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I was so ready for this to work! Let us know if you try it again.

  • 14 joycooks // Oct 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Well, now you have something else to deal with at WF. I would definitely let them know you think it was bad and maybe you’ll even get all of your money back! I would love to know how old it really was…

  • 15 The Italian Dish // Oct 28, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Yikes! I guess it will be a long time before you try liver again! Poor kitty.

  • 16 Mary Coleman // Oct 28, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Merle prefers mouse liver, I expect!

  • 17 indeo // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    according to Cosentino on his web site (www.offalgood.com), “Offal does not keep well so must either be prepared and cooked quite soon after slaughter or turned into a product which does keep (BRAUN, HASLET, PATE, some kinds of SAUSAGE).” according to my Grandmother, “never consume calf liver after 24 hours past slaughter. ” bummer. sounds like bad liver…:-(

  • 18 fluffernutter // Oct 28, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Oh I love fegato — we had it in a Venetian cafeteria in one of the residential districts. And I wish my family would eat it. I made it exactly once, when everyone else was out of town. I’m so sorry for your disappointing liver — it should have been in a shoe-in with all those good ingredients and a good recipe

  • 19 Heather // Oct 28, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I love liver and onions ever so much. Did you soak it in milk first to eliminate bad stuff? I heard that works. But sucks that it sucked.

  • 20 Marc @ NoRecipes // Oct 28, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I’m not much a liver fan, but even I’d eat that:-) Whole Foods definitely has issues with with its checkers. I once bought sea bream and got charged for red snapper, but then there was a time they entered some black truffles as $15 a pound instead of an ounce, so I guess it all evens out in the end.

  • 21 Donald // Oct 29, 2008 at 3:47 am

    Eventhough plated that looks good, I can not do liver. My mom loves it and used to prepare it with onions, but I had to drown it with ketchup just to get it down. We even had a dog, but one ate what one was fed.

  • 22 democommie // Oct 29, 2008 at 6:55 am


    I think (I hope) I know what that last sentence meant, but it still was a laugh producer.


    Sorry to hear that you got some bad liver. I’ve never been a huge fan, although a lot of that has to do with my moms practice of making it as much like shoe leather as humanly possible. I do love me some pate, though.

    I’ve redone my kitchen ( I moved the sawhorses) and since the temp plummeted yesterday–19″ of snow in Morrisville–about 65 miles south of and 1200′ higher than Oswego–I made some “fridge soup”. I think I’ll put the recipe up at my place later today or tomorrow. I don’t have a cat, so I had to eat it myself–no ill effects, yet!) .

    I did have some excellent liver once; it was cooked by a young english woman. I’ve heard that they boil steaks in “Old Blighty” but she, by God, knew how to saute liver.

  • 23 TaratheFoodie // Oct 29, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Nice to finally meet your little kitty, Merle! However he looks a little pissed that you thought something you wouldn’t eat would be just fine for him to eat. Merle’s like, “What am I, chopped liver??!!” …. … bad joke?

    Oh, and I think you should run a contest and have people re-name this post. Like “Shit on a Plate” or “Fun with Feces”… haha

    Sorry, I took Benadryl this morning… :-)

  • 24 Ethel // Oct 29, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I can just picture you waiting to be transported to culinary heaven after your first bite and then UGH.
    I would definately go back to whole foods as they would want to know. Liver must be fresh.
    Poor cat. Hope your next cooking venture is your usual———–great.

  • 25 Peter // Oct 29, 2008 at 9:14 am

    Who you calling a fegato?

    Our cat noisily pukes a lovely mixture of kibble and houseplant all over the house on a regular basis. It’s really charming, and relaxing, and makes me want to pet him with a shovel.

  • 26 noble pig // Oct 29, 2008 at 11:14 am

    OMG I am laughing so hard…this would have been a great Halloween story…but I want to know was dry aged steak then shared with you? My fork would have been looking for a hand out.

  • 27 Jack // Oct 29, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Mommie was bad! Poor Merle! He doesn’t look very happy in the picture. Our cats are always yacking-up something but not liver. I don’t like it and wouldn’t even think of trying to develop a taste for it. As for liver’s unpopularity in the South, it just doesn’t make sense to eat something that can be put on a hook and used to catch a nice catfish!
    Dry-aged steak is a taste worth acquiring, but none of that awful offal for me!

  • 28 Lesley // Oct 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Not even Merle could keep it down…I agree with Joy–perhaps the purveyors of exotic organ meats at the WF will replace your bad liver. However, I don’t know what their policy on replacing your bad kidneys (resulting from eating bad liver) is. :)

  • 29 Mal Carne // Oct 29, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    My usual home beef or calf’s liver attempts have usually ended up the same way. How does one get liver from a retail market that doesn’t taste like crap? (literally)

    btw – I’m betting Merle found something fabric covered to deposit the liver on, didn’t he?

  • 30 Melissa // Oct 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Holy claws!

    It killed me how you set up this post. I was so anticipating a wonderful end result, but then you grimaced and the cat vomited. Damn.

    I would talk to WF too. Get my money back at least on the difference between the veal rack and the liver. They rang me up $19 for acorn squash the other day, $14 too much. I definitely went back and got my cash.

    And yes, let us know if you try again. I’d like to see how that goes.

    P.S. More cat photos, please. So I can stare at your little ones and say “HEE” and grin like an idiot at my screen.

  • 31 We Are Never Full // Oct 29, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    i’m soooo sad! this has been one of the dishes we’ve been meaning to make for awhile. it should not have tasted like poo. that’s just wrong – and sucks!

    we do soak our liver in milk – it does help diminish the poo smell. supposedly it’s an equalizer – we wrote about it’s effect on kidneys we made a LONG time ago: http://www.weareneverfull.com/when-life-gives-you-veal-kidneys/

    next time see what happens… but you may have gotten a bad liver.

  • 32 aforkfulofspaghetti // Oct 30, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Oh, bleurgh. Nothing is so wrong as bad meat. And bad liver? Jeez? Enough to give anyone the heebies.

    Poor Merle. Has he forgiven you? Or is he quietly plotting his revenge?

  • 33 Brooke // Oct 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Poor Merle (I love that name, by the way – definitely an old man cat sorta name). Liver is the devil to me, so I can’t really blame him.

  • 34 lifeinrecipes // Oct 30, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Oh, Claudia, yuk. Just yuk. Didn’t it smell kinda off when you were cooking it? I’ve never had liver that tasted that way – just badly textured over-cooked stuff, but nothing like that. Poor kitty.

  • 35 Sara // Oct 30, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    Even if it tasted bad, your pictures are still beautiful!

  • 36 wendy // Oct 31, 2008 at 12:53 pm


  • 37 Joan, In the 88th Street Zone. // Nov 1, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Fegato Fiasco! Loved this dish when I met it in Venice decades ago. Have loved it ever since. Didn’t know liver could so easily be so bad. Guess I’ve just been lucky with my butcher over the years. Maybe a key to my luck is the fact that my butcher stopped keeping it in stock! He says there’s not enough call for liver. When I want calf’s liver, or chicken livers, he has to order it especially for me. I always thought that was a drag. Until I read your story, and decided it was probably a gift!

    I always enjoy your entries, whether they’re about hits or misses. You have the gift of conveying the essential experience of whatever it is you are writing about. Keep ’em coming!

  • 38 chefectomy // Nov 1, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    It tastes like shit because it is liver…

  • 39 Brittany // Nov 1, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Aw! Meow! What a cutie.

    I have only had liver in chicken form, pureed to the point of Fancy Feast.
    And I love it.

    I need to try if from the calf.
    I feel lame now.

  • 40 MangerLaVille // Nov 1, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    I think you got some bad liver. And after you have been craving and searching, that sucks. You should tell Whole Foods, I am sure they would do something about it.

  • 41 zenchef // Nov 2, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Ohh.. bad liver is really yuck! I’m glad both you and your cat survived the experience. I usually soak it in milk but it won’t help much if the liver is not fresh. The recipe looks good though!

    Well, there’s always a next time!

  • 42 Jamie // Nov 2, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Oh, I was so hopeful for this! I tried liver for the first time this summer and HATED it. But maybe it was bad too.
    Since commenting here earlier this year about scallops, I have had them once in sushi since arriving in Nashville. I got food poisoning. Heartbreaking food luck for us both!

    Hope your register mix-up gets fixed. Shall I take a moment to shamelessly remind you of a certain 100% return policy at a certain neighboring business that is opening Friday? If you’re there and you spot a frazzled curly-haired girl in Hawaiian roaming about, do say hello! I promise we have no bad liver (well, or any liver for that matter…)

  • 43 Meg // Nov 2, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    I am an innards hating diva, I admit. I like to think of myself as a non-picky eater, but… innards defeat that delusional vision of myself.

    What a bummer for something you love to 1) turn out badly and 2) now remind you of your cat barfing it back up.

  • 44 Kristie // Nov 3, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Maybe the calf was a heavy drinker?

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