Cookbook #40.5: The Country Cooking of Ireland

Adapted from Cookbook #40.5:  The Country Cooking of Ireland (2009)

Recipe: Liver in Whiskey Cream Sauce

Okay, I said I would make this. 

The whole point of beginning this blog was to get me out of my comfort zone and to use (really use!) the cookbooks that I own.  It was meant to inspire me to cook again, to try something new.

When I bought this cookbook, I never knew it would lead to this:  Liver.  Onions.  Whiskey.  This cookbook proudly has an entire chapter devoted to offal, the subtitle of which is "The Irish Touch."  Isn't that fabulous?

The book admits that many Americans do not eat offal, in part because we no longer have to eat it (McDonald's has made short order of that).  Thus we discard the tongue, the liver, the kidneys, or we grind them up into sausages so we don't have to confront what they truly are.  This chapter suggests we might do well to change our ways.  We're missing out on the glories of Chicken Liver Pate, Crubeens (Pig's Feet), Collared Head (yep, made from 1 pig's head, halved from top to bottom and brined), Black Pudding, and Sweetbreads Wrapped in Bacon.  The final page in the chapter is for Lamb's Liver in Whiskey Cream Sauce.

I turned the page.

I cooked boxty instead.

I cheated.

But then, I reminded myself of the whole point of this little enterprise.  And then I took some faith in Leopold Bloom, who "ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls."

Many of you know that last year, my project was to read Ulysses, a book that changed my life.  In the first chapter in the Bloom section (Calypso), we walk with Bloom to the butcher's shop (where "a kidney oozed bloodgouts on the willowpatterned dish") to buy a pork kidney, which he then prepares (and burns slightly) for breakfast.  Why did Ulysses change my life?  Every Saturday morning, I would make myself a pot of tea, and I would settle in to read for two to three hours.  I did this from September to April, as I read 30 pages a week with two of my students.  I rediscovered the joy of layered meaning, the delight of reading closely, and the awe in what an author can do.  Yes, yes, Bloom was a bit of a dirty bird, but so was his creator.  But both present distinctly human yearnings--each is hungry for something more than the surface level, for the human connection, and in their own ways, the ability to say yes, even if it is Molly Bloom who is the one to offer up this assertion.

Not a good picture, but I did set the skillet on fire (on purpose!).

This brings me back to the liver.  I said yes.

And I am glad I did.  I like liver.  I didn't know.

4 Servings

1 lb lamb's liver, membrane removed, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices [I used calf's liver because it was easier to find]
2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
1 onion, minced
2 tbsp Irish whiskey
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp whole-grain mustard
1 tbsp freshly chopped chives

1.  Put the liver into a shallow dish large enough to hold it in a single layer; then cover with the milk and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.  Rinse the liver, discarding the milk, and pat dry with paper towels.  Melt half the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook the onions, stirring frequently, until soft and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove the onions from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

3.  Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet and sear the liver over high heat for about 1-1/2 minutes on each side.  As the liver is done, transfer to a plate and set aside.

4.  Pour the whiskey into the pan, warm it for about a minute, then carefully ignite it [!] with a kitchen match [I did, indeed, do this step, but I think you can skip it or cook it a little longer to burn off some of the alcohol. Your call.]  When the flames die down, stir in the cream and mustard, scraping up any brown bits form the bottom of the pan.  Cook for about one minute, then return the onions and liver to the skillet along with any juices that have accumulated.

5.  Stir well, season to taste with salt and pepper, and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until the liver is heated through.  Garnish with the chives.


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