In March of 2019, my Hubby committed the soon-to-be-world-famous Serendipity Farmhouse Test Kitchen to a challenge. He committed us to making liver and onions in honor of his brother Tim’s birthday. He even went out on a limb (as he often does) and said that the SFH Test Kitchen staff would attempt to master Sauté of Calf’s Liver with Onions from Julia Child’s book The Way to Cook.
My hotshot husband figured that we in the kitchen staff would all jump to the opportunity. That’s because we had watched Julia make the dish on a video. He said Julia made it look easy. Surely, we could pull it off. But, when Hubby says we, he usually means me.
So, let me tell you the story about how the SFH kitchen staff staged a mutiny. In fact, they even went so far as to maroon Ol’ Fuzz Face in a desolate and deserted kitchen as a punishment.
The Makings of a Mutiny
So, after putting us all on the spot and setting us up for a potential, major failure, Hubby left the kitchen for the solitude of his office. – Mr. Monte and I were just a little miffed. Well, no, actually we were a lot miffed. No, in reality, we were more than a lot miffed. The more we thought about it, the more we were miffed to the max.
Mr. Monte beat me to saying what was on my mind. “Ol’ Fuzz Face deserves some of his own medicine. Miss Blondie, you can count me out of kitchen duty tonight. If he thinks it’s so easy, let that sucker cook the liver himself.” – And with those words now a matter of record, the 22-pound Main Coon cat walked out of the kitchen and took a nap.
Time passed. Eventually, Hubby came down the stairs with his camera, expecting to take pictures of Mr. Monte and me cooking the liver. As he entered the kitchen, a puzzled look crossed his face – some ingredients were on the counter, but the SFH Test Kitchen staff was nowhere to be seen. – After about a minute of standing there with that look on his face, I came into the kitchen and informed Mr. Smugness that he’d better start cooking if he wanted supper.
Marooned in a Deserted Kitchen
Rather uncharacteristically, he just shrugged, got out the frying pan and necessary utensils and started cooking. He put himself on autopilot and went into Julia-mode. Homemade butter was tossed into the pan with some olive oil – he was humming to himself about the joys of butter as he was sautéing the onions.
Once the onions were out of the pan, more butter was deftly tossed into the pan. He sniffed and savored the aroma as the butter melted – that “sucker” was having fun – the nerve of him – he was having fun.
Return of a Mutineer
I broke down in my resolve. I had to join him because I couldn’t beat him. I helped him dredge the liver slices in the flour. Then, I watched as he fit five slices neatly into the pan, even though I had just told him they wouldn’t fit. He had a self-satisfied smirk on his face – he was still having fun.
The only time he broke stride was when he thought that we didn’t have the right vermouth. Even then, he wasn’t stymied or deterred. A light went on in his memory and within a moment, while the liver was cooking, he made a mad dash to the pantry; noisily moved about fifty items; and then came running back to kitchen with the proper vermouth.
The onions were poured over the liver and the vermouth was poured over everything. He covered the pan and leaned back and waited for the magic to happen. I waited too.
The Makings of a Liver & Onions Miracle
In minutes, we were at the table, praying grace, and toasting Tim on his birthday. Then came the first bite. No, magic had not happened in that frying pan. Instead, a miracle had happened. That smug hotshot, that wonderful husband of mine, had just made the most delicious liver and onions I had ever tasted, the most delicious liver and onions we had ever tasted.
Maybe it was the local grass fed, grass finished beef liver. Maybe it was Julia’s recipe. Maybe it was because Mr. Monte and I made the right decision in forcing hubby to take the challenge of cooking the meal himself.
No matter what it was, it was definitely Julia’s Liver and Onions in Honor of Tim.
Happy heavenly birthday, Tim!
You can find the video set of The Way to Cook on Amazon here. And if you click on the link to the video go to section 209 at the 16 minute and 33 second mark to see how Julia does it. Other resources can be found here.
In this recipe, we have combined Julia’s master recipe for sauté of calf’s liver with the techniques for browning the onions and finishing the dish. Try it out. You’ve never had liver and onions as good as this.
Julia Child’s Liver and Onions
- 1 Heavy 10-inch frying pan no-stick recommended
Browned Sliced Onions Ingredients
- 3 cups sliced onions
- 2-3 tablespoons butter oil optional
Ingredients for Master Recipe
- 4 slices about 1 pound top-quality calf's liver sliced ½ inch thick
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- ½ cup flour in a plate
- 3 Tbs clarified butter or butter and light olive oil or peanut oil
- ½ cup tenderly browned sliced onions See Ahead-of-time note
- ¼ cup dry white French vermouth
- ⅓ cup beef or chicken stock
- 2 to 3 Tbs minced fresh parsley optional
- Browned Sliced Onions: This is for about ½ cup of browned sliced onions, enough for the garnishing of 4 to 6 servings. Slowly sauté 3 cups of sliced onions in 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter or oil in a covered pan, stirring frequently, until the onions are very tender – 15 minutes or so. Uncover the pan, salt lightly, raise the heat to moderately high, and let the onions brown nicely, stirring frequently – 5 minutes or more.
- Sauteing the Liver: Just before sauteing, season the liver on both sides with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and dredge in the flour, shaking off excess. Set the frying pan over high heat and film with 1/16 inch of clarified butter or butter and oil. When very hot, lay in the liver and sauté 1 minute on each side.
- Finishing the Dish: Scrape the onions over the liver, pour in the vermouth and stock, raise heat, and boil rapidly, basting the liver with the sauce as it thickens lightly. Remove the liver to hot plates or a hot platter, spoon the sauce over, and decorate with the optional parsley.
- Suggested Accompaniments: Home-made mashed potatoes , broiled or baked tomatoes, and perhaps a lightly dressed salad of young spinach leaves. Pair with a fairly hearty red wine, like zinfandel or Beaujolais.