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calves liver with soft or fried polenta, or mashed potatoes : questions of texture, taste and presentation

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
This is a follow-on from my original post "Critique of special menu required please". To summarize, we're planning a mains of calves liver with polenta or mashed potato, prepared as much in advance as possible.

Last weekend we did a trail run to test timing, texture, taste, and presentation (using white china). Here are the results:

The liver was cut into equally sizes (3 pieces pp), quickly pan fried with a wee bit of garlic, fresh sage leaves, parsley, lemon juice, red wine and balsamic vinegar. Crispy whole sage leaves and pancetta which was kinda twisted into straws served as garnishes.

We prepared side starches of polenta -- soft and fried -- and mashed potato, to see which worked best :

The soft polenta was a Gordon Ramsay recipe using stock, crème fraiche, lemon. Hubby stirred it up while I worked the liver, and it took only 7 minutes to plate. Pooled polenta on plate, topped with liver, then pancetta, drizzled sauce around edges. Looked nice with good colours. The polenta was creamy and light, but also had "body".

The stiff polenta (made with stock, parsley and lemon) was cut into triangles with tiny parsley leaves pressed in, I easly fried it up at the at the same time as the liver. Placed 3 overlapping triangles per plate, liver on side, sauce drizzled around. Didn't looked "pulled together". Maybe needed a green veg? Or, cut the polenta into circles, with liver on top (perhaps risking polenta getting mushy)? The crispy outside contrasted well with the tenderness of the liver, but was a little rubbery in the middle; would over-cooking the first time be to blame?

The mash had roasted garlic, bay-scented milk and butter, mashed, covered and kept warm in the oven for 1 hour. We tried serving it under the liver in a pool (a creamier/wetter version) and stiffer using a biscuit cutter as a mould, each with sauce drizzled around. The contrast of the creamy white mash with the liver and pan juices looked lovely, especially with the wetter version. Each verion was tasty and comforting, Next time, however, would have hubby mash at the last minute while I do the liver, because they degraded sitting in a warm oven for an hour before service. Potatoes with meat, however good, somehow seems so...well,,. predicable.

Maybe we watch Master Chef et al too much, but the judges always have something to say about presentation and food combinations that "make the dish", and for our experiment we couldn't decide which texture goes better with the liver. Obviously, it's all down to personal preference but, like pairing wine with food, there must be some words of wisdom, yes?

What say you?
Cookie in the Wildwood
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Cookie in the Wildwood
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post #2 of 6
sounds pretty nice. i had calvs liver as mystery basket adn it was tasty. you menu sounds pretty tasty.is it frozen or fresh liver?
Chef it up errrrday!!!
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Chef it up errrrday!!!
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post #3 of 6
Mashed potatoes may be a little cliched, but they're perfect with liver.  If you want a slight twist, one which can add some interest but stay within the bounds of "comfort food," lose the garlic (which is very old-hat) and try mixing in some other root vegetables with the potato, like parsnip, rutabaga or turnip. 

As you already know, mashed potatoes (without or without other root vegetables) don't hold particularly well in an oven.  Fresh is much better.

You want a consistency just on this side of soupy.  You want them hold together enough so that the mash is just stiff enough to allow you to lean the liver on it for plating purposes, and sauce puddles around the outside of the potatoes without actually mixing in -- at least until you mush them together. 

Hope this helps,
BDL
post #4 of 6
Mashed potato and celeriac work well.  But, as mentioned, won't hold well for long if you want them really soft.

Have you considered colcannon?

But where are your onions and bacon?  Lovely accompaniments to go into the sauce.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thanks to everyone who responded. We had our little dinner party Saturday night and took BDL's suggestion for the mashed potatoes with parsnips - they were wonderful and really did give them a new dimension. We'd paired the spuds and started boiling them when we served the soup, and they were perfect for mashing by time we finished the soup and salad, so that they only took 5 minutes or so to plate up.

In answer Skatz and DC Sunshine, the liver was fresh rosé veal from Germany. We searched all over for organic, but for some reason it's hard to come by in the UK. We soaked it in milk, and gave a dusting of flour as BDL had previously advised. We didn't do onions with the liver, but for nibbles before hand, served barquetts filled with a leek and fennel chiffonade.

Only one thing went wrong with the entire game plan. After the salad, hubby and I cleared the plates away and he started doing the mash while I pulled the liver and pancetta out of the fridge to get that going. Somehow, we both ended up leaving the kitchen at the same time to make sure our friends had enough wine. Upon our return a few minutes later, we discovered to our horror that one of the dogs grabbed the entire open package of pancetta off the counter and was running around with the empty bag pulled over his nose-LOL!! A new member of our family, he's an Irish Setter-Basset Hound mix, with the red coat of a setter and the sawed-off legs and long body of a Basset. So, at only 20 inches tall, we really didn't think he could reach that high. Now we know! Goes to show that lessons in the kitchen can sometimes take some unexpected turns!
Cookie in the Wildwood
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Cookie in the Wildwood
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post #6 of 6
You and your dog come across as pretty darn delightful, so I'm especially glad the food worked out for your party.

BDL
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