I remember Nafsika, my Smyrnian grandmother (a wonderful cook and the kindest person I’ve ever met), used to make pan-fried veal liver or chicken livers at least once a week without fail.“It’s for the child so that he gets big and strong”, she would say, as in those days the child was very skinny. Even though I was very fussy about food until adolescence, liver was one of the few things I adored. My family and I spent many Sundays during the ’60s at Kosta’s taverna in Glyfada, Attica – the so-called home of the beef burger – where we knew he bought high quality meat from our Mykonian butcher, and I would always order char-grilled liver with crispy chips.
Recently I ate the most heavenly liver by far at the Base Grill restaurant, Athens. Exceptionally good ingredients, perfect cooking, a mousse-like texture and light, yet full flavour. The highlight is the way it is served, thinly sliced and drizzled with a little olive oil on top.
After reading up on it, and making various experimental runs, I have come up with the simplest recipe with a few special tips which make all the difference and give a result that is extremely close to that at Base Grill. This is thanks to food chemistry which was first applied in Roman times and ensures that the liver is light, doesn’t have a pungent smell and is particularly tasty. From then on, it’s all in the way it is fried…
The secret to perfect pan-fried veal liver: Half an hour before cooking, soak the liver in milk! Why you may ask. Because cooking is basically just chemistry. Here, the lactic acid creates the perfect chemical reactions that make the liver light and remove odours. Please don’t ask me to explain exactly how this happens, because chemistry is the reason I became an advertiser rather than a scientist….
I believe this recipe is best kept absolutely simple without special sauces and garnishes. The whole point is to savour the flavour of the meat which melts in your mouth in a passionate tango with the golden fried potato chips. The only sauce that I would recommend is homemade mayonnaise a la Pandespani which goes beautifully with both the liver and chips. Nothing else…apart from perhaps a fabulous Cabernet or Argiorgitiko wine and some good company!
Perfect pan-fried veal liver
Ingredients (for 2 people)
1 or 2 pieces of liver , depending on the size and thickness (ideally ask for it to be cut in 1 cm thick pieces)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Extra olive oil for serving
Preparation: 30 minutes plus the time of soaking the liver. Quick and easy to make recipe.
Soaking: Put the liver in a bowl of milk and leave for at least 20 minutes. Then, take it out of the milk, dry thoroughly with kitchen paper and leave it to dry for 5 minutes at room temperature.
Pan Frying: Pour a little oil into the frying pan and set the heat to medium-high. Put the liver into the pan and turn it with a spatula every minute for a total of 4-5 minutes, depending on how thick the pieces are. For a thin piece of about 1 cm thick, 4 minutes is enough – therefore it would need turning twice on each side.
After turning for the second time, lower the heat to medium-low. As soon as it’s ready, transfer it onto a wooden chopping board and allow it to rest for 2-3 minutes. Carve it vertically in thin slices using a sharp knife.
Serving: Serve the slices of pan fried veal liver on warmed plates, adding salt, pepper and a little fresh oil. Accompany with crispy chips.
For those interested in the ultimate liver flavour, we have created a similar recipe with veal liver and smoked paprika a la pandespani, which we have presented in Eleni’s Psichouli show called “Chef on air”. If you are a liver fan, we promise that you will love this version.