I like meat. Few things give me as much joy as animal protein well prepared - a steak served bleu, after a brief dalliance with the searing heat of an open flame, thrills me; the sizzle of bacon makes me sing; a shoulder long-braised by a well-tempered oven warms the cockles of my heart. In short, I am a confirmed carnivore.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, however. Mark Bittman eloquently makes the case against our meat-eating habits, and I agree with him. We live in an age of greatly enhanced production of meat, but that leads to a very tenuous link to its consumption. The convenience of a pack of chicken breasts from the supermarket is undeniable, but it also hides from us the birds that are being killed to provide us with food. Indeed, the term 'production' itself carries the connotation of an industrial commodity; indistinguishable widgets stamped out from an unceasing supply.
What, then, is the conscentious carnivore to do? One answer is to emulate the admirable parsimony of those who live much closer to the land. For one thing, eating less meat and spreading our consumption over several meals would be a beginning. And eating more of the animal, which means increasing our repertoire of recipes and dishes to include humbler cuts and parts. Which brings me to liver, or chicken liver specifically.
It is almost a truism to say that many of the worlds greatest dishes have their origins in a need to make the unattractive palatable, and the three recipes featuring liver below are proof of that. In addition, they have another advantage - their richness makes a little go a very long way, and sate my meat cravings effectively.
The first is a classic pate - a perfect place to start. Trimmed chicken liver is poached in water with some onion, herbs, and spices, and then blended with butter. A toasted baguette, and you have a perfect first course.
The second is a pasta with liver, sherry and cream. Inspired by a foie-gras pasta I had at Acquerelloin San Francisco, I used trofie, a short eggless pasta from Liguria, sauteed the liver with bacon and onions, and deglazed the pan with sweet sherry and cream. Sage fresh from the herb garden finishes this off.
And finally, I used the broth left over from the pate as a base for this classic Castilian recipe.
So there you have it - a pound of liver, and three wonderful dishes to keep the carnivore at bay.