Thursday, 29 April 2010

Liver & Tomato Casserole, Possibly with Mushrooms & Bacon

Liver: some people love it, and some people loathe it. I admit to liking it quite a lot. I was brought up in the days when people were encouraged to eat it once a week. We didn't eat it that often in our family, but it did show up pretty regularly. Once my parents got divorced, the liver fault-lines started to show though: Mom (and myself, and my brother) was (were) a liver-lover, and Dad - wasn't. Once, while shopping with Dad, it occurred to me that we hadn't had any in a long while. "Dad!" I asked, as we passed through the meat department, "Can we have liver?"

"NO!" said Dad. "I hate liver. NO LIVER!" (Really? News to me. He'd always eaten it when served it before.)

"Pleeeease?" I begged, and my younger brother, then about six years old, chimed in from his spot in the cart, "Yes! Let's have liver!"

"Oh, all right" grumbled Dad, after we begged some more. "You kids can have liver. But get me a pork chop, because I'm not eating it."

I always remember this incident because as I gleefully grabbed a packet of liver from the cooler, I saw the face of a woman who had overheard this exchange. She was absolutely flabbergasted, to say the least. I think her mouth was actually hanging open. At that point it occurred to me that this hadn't been a typical parent-child exchange.

Anyway, you may notice that this is the first liver recipe I have posted, because as it turns out Mr. Ferdzy has at least one thing in common with Dad. However, when you buy a whole lamb it does come with the liver. If you think you might like liver, but aren't sure, this is a good recipe to start with. The trouble with liver, I think, is that raw liver is plainly rather icky, but too many people think that it should therefore be cooked to death. Nasty, dried out old shoeleather it then becomes. By casseroling it, it can be well-cooked if you like without it becoming tough or dried out. You can also cook it so that it's still a bit pink in the middle, which is the prefered level of doneness for most liver lovers.

There are an awful lot of "optional" choices in this recipe, but it is a casserole and casseroles tend to be like that. It's good with the mushrooms and bacon but there's nothing wrong with it if you have only one or neither of those, which I didn't. I just used an extra onion to make up for the lack. If you like lamb, and you like liver, then lambs liver is THE liver, but calves liver is fine too. I admit to finding pork liver just too intense.

To me this is a spring or late summer dish; it's great with firm but ripe field tomatoes but the greenhouse ones are fine too. I got some nice greenhouse tomatoes in three colours last week, and I tried to arrange them so the colours could be seen. It worked reasonably well; better than my onions staying in slices. Since they fell apart I just put some of them on the top and some on the bottom.

4 servings
45 minutes - 20 minutes prep time

Liver and Tomato Casserole
500 grams (1 pound) lamb or calves liver
1 cup flour, about
1 large onion, or 2 if no mushrooms or bacon are used
2 or 3 medium tomatoes (greenhouse are fine)
a handful of button mushrooms (optional)
OR 1 or 2 portobello mushrooms
3 or 4 slices of bacon, or up to 100 grams/1/4 pound (optional)
OR 2-3 tablespoons bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup beef or lamb broth; use part wine if desired

Cut the liver into about 8 similar-sized pieces, discarding any tough veins or membrane. Dredge it in the flour, and set it aside; discarding any excess flour.

Peel and slice the onion (or onions) and set them aside. Wash, core and slice the tomatoes. Clean and slice the mushrooms, if you are using them.

Preheat the ovent to 375°F.

Next, fry the bacon briefly in a medium skillet until softened but not crisp. Remove it and set it aside. Fry the onions slices, taking care to keep them as whole as possible. (You will notice I didn't have much success with that, but still.) Remove them and set them aside. Finally, fry the liver pieces quickly on each side, just to brown them. You may need to a add a little more oil or bacon fat if it has all been soaked up by that point.

Now it is time to arrange all the ingredients in what should be a somewhat snug baking dish. Arrange the onion slices, tomato slices, mushrooms if using, and liver in overlapping layers in it. Lay your slices of bacon over top, if you are using them.

Put the sage and mustard, and a bit of salt and pepper into the skillet, then use the broth or broth and wine combination to deglaze the pan. Cook and stir, scraping up any brown bits, until the broth is reduced about in half, then pour it over the liver and vegetables.

Bake the casserole for 20 to 30 minutes at 375°F. until the tomatoes are soft and the liver is done to your liking; as noted, there should still be some pink at 20 minutes but it will be well done at 30 minutes. Serve with rice or potatoes to soak up the juices. Yum, I tell you; yum.

Last year at this time I made Blue Cheese & Apple Cole Slaw.

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