Sweet and Sour Calves Liver – back to Sicily

Fegato de cavallo for dinner? Sure! What is it?

As I wrote a year and a half ago, our two-week stay in Trapani, Sicily, fortified with many hours of Pimsleur Italian lessons, gave us a chance to make some friends while we were there. Among them were Massimo and Katia Monticciolo, who managed a small cafe under a tent on the beach about a quarter mile from our hotel (Baia dei Mulini – “Bay of Windmills”). They served sandwiches and pasta and beer and wine, and we were usually the only ones there. It was mid-September, and we were the last of the summer tourists.

Baiadeimulini“Our pool” at Baia dei Mulini, Trapani. We were two of a very small contingent of hotel guests.

Actually, Trapani is not much of a tourist destination at all. It’s a banking and finance center, with some fishing on the side – a real working town. For two weeks we didn’t encounter any other Americans – just as we’d hoped.

Near the end of our stay, I saw Massimo and Katia at their tent cafe (my wife was off somewhere else – I forget where) and they enthusiastically invited us to dinner at their house that night. Wow, terrific! Then Massimo volunteered what they would be serving.

“Fegato de cavallo!” he was excited.

Well, Pimsleur hadn’t prepared me quite well enough to have a clue what this meant, so Massimo started to act it out, a la charades, by pointing to his midriff and then doing a very convincing impersonation of a neighing horse.

“Horse liver?” I said, and of course Massimo, knowing no English, smiled and shrugged and nodded.

I got cold feet, indicated my wife and I had planned on a certain restaurant that night, Massimo insisted and pleaded, I said grazie mille ma non a few times, and in the end we were both disappointed. Well, one slowly learns, and I would never ever turn down an invitation like this again, even if they were planning to serve yak kidneys au fondu. Massimo, Katia, and their boy Nino were all very cool, super-friendly people and I blew it.



Massimo and Nino.







Katia and Nino.






Then again, I will never eat horse liver. Ever. But calves liver? Bring it on!


Fegato Garbo e Dolce – sweet and sour liver

DSC_0069smallSo, so good… served with portobello mushrooms

If you’re like me and get an insatiable, gotta-have-it craving for calves liver every two years or so, this is the dish to make. It’s very simple to prepare, uses very few ingredients, and tastes wonderful. This is adapted slightly from The Essential Mediterranean Cookbook, which gets plenty of use in our kitchen.

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • 2 frozen calves livers, in your supermarket’s frozen meat case (the brand I bought was Continental – 4 thin liver slices in individual packets)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 1 cup fine (not panko) breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsps. light brown or turbinado sugar
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • parsley for garni

First, allow the liver slices to thaw slightly, then coat them thoroughly in the bread crumbs. In a large iron skillet heat the butter and half the olive oil over medium heat, and when the butter starts to foam place the livers in the pan. Cook about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side or until the crust is crispy and dark. Set them aside on a plate and keep warm in a low oven.

Make the sauce: in the same pan, add the remaining olive oil, add the sugar and garlic, and cook over low heat, stirring with a spatula, until the garlic is nicely browned. Now add the vinegar (which may spatter a bit) and cook for about 30 seconds or until it’s mostly evaporated. Pour into a small pitcher/gravy boat.

Remove the liver from them oven, serve on warm plates, and pour the sauce over. Super easy, very delicious!

There it is.


Ned White

About Ned White

Ned White is a writer, novelist, crossword puzzle constructor, traveler through 49 states, and at times a danger in the kitchen. He lives with his wife in South Thomaston.