To wrap up Halloween Week, here's a dinner so terrifying my roommate left the house for the entire evening. Enjoy!
After the post on the literary James Bond's Vesper cocktail versus the vodka martini of the movies, I decided to tackle a similar movie/book/beverage change. In the film version of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter memorably said, "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
In the book, it was a "big Amarone". As I thought about this, I realized that some well-prepared liver, fava beans, and a nice Italian wine would be a pretty good dinner, if in somewhat questionable taste. Let's just go ahead and get this straight: this is a normal cow's liver from the grocery store. Benito's Wine Reviews does not endorse cannibalism practiced upon census personnel or anyone else for that matter.
Despite the disclaimers, it still freaked out The Roommate, as this movie gave her nightmares for years afterwards and one of the house rules is that I don't do my Lecter voice around her. More liver for me!
Liver and onions is a pretty common pairing, and I looked at a few different recipes. A big contender was Mario Batali's fegato alla veneziana, but I settled on Anthony Bourdain's foie de veau lyonnaise. At the end of the recipe, he suggests several variations, including adding apples and pork to the onions. I sliced up some of those Ozark Gold apples and a bit of prosciutto to go along with the onions, and the liver was just lightly fried on each side. The best parts of the liver were the least cooked, sort of a medium rare pink. It's difficult to achieve this using the thin slices commonly available; I'd like to get a full liver and cook one-inch cubes in the future.
The fava beans were prepared with onion, bell pepper, and tomato paste, amongst other spices and seasonings. I started with dried beans (I've never seen fresh ones around here), and by the time the dish was done the beans had fallen apart into a chunky mush. This did not affect the flavor of the dish, which was rich and savory. While there are many substitutes for Italian classics like fava and cannelini beans, somehow the real thing is always best.
And what about the wine? The 2003 Bolla Amarone della Valpolicella was a real treat. $46, 15% abv, made from a proprietary blend of partially-dried Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. It had gorgeous aromas of fig, fennel, and cedar, with flavors of pomegranate and currant. I allowed it to decant for about two hours before the meal and it went along very well with the meal. This bottle, and other Amarones topping $100, would fall under the "special occasion" wines for most folks I know, but I felt it was well worth it here. It helped elevate the dish far above the sad, overcooked liver and onions that rest under heat lamps at diners and dives throughout the country.
All in all an unforgettable meal. While I won't be replicating it precisely anytime soon, I do want to experiment further with liver, and I think that fava beans could be a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Still image copyright MGM.