Smooth and creamy, buttered polenta makes a good substitute for mashed potatoes.

Smooth and creamy, buttered polenta makes a good substitute for mashed potatoes.

Venetian Calf’s Live and Onions: Comfort food, Italian style

  • By Sue Ade
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015 1:20pm
  • LifeFood

In Italian cuisine, Fegato alla Veneziana, or Venetian Calf’s Liver and Onions, is a popular way to enjoy liver. Served with creamy buttered polenta, it’s comfort food to the nth degree. If you have trouble finding calf’s liver in the fresh meat department where you shop, check the frozen foods section. Calf’s liver is often available, frozen, in one-pound packages, trimmed of its membrane and recipe ready.

While liver is high in certain vitamins and minerals, as well as being a nutrient-rich protein source, it is also significantly high in cholesterol. So, like many other foods we’d like to enjoy without risk to our health, how much liver we eat — and how often we eat it — makes the difference between being able to enjoy it on occasion, or not at all.

Venetian Calf’s Liver and Onions is most often accompanied with polenta — a kind of porridge, or mush, made from cornmeal. While polenta can be prepared firm, which may be sliced and grilled, my preference is for soft polenta, with the consistency of mashed potatoes, for serving with liver. As a side dish, polenta is often overlooked, mostly because making it with coarse, stone-ground cornmeal — by most, the preferred cornmeal for polenta — can be a time-consuming and laborious process. I’ve found, however, that faster cooking medium-grained cornmeal, such as the cornmeal sold by the Quaker Oats Company, to be suitable (and tasty) for making a quick polenta.

Venetian-style calf’s liver and onions, especially served with polenta, is rustic and homey — and in case you need it — comforting, too.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food columnist with broad experience and interests in the culinary arts. She has resided and worked in the lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Venetian Calf's Liver and Onions - with polenta - is surprisingly easy and economical to make.

Venetian Calf’s Liver and Onions – with polenta – is surprisingly easy and economical to make.

: Cornmeal can be found in a variety of "grinds," fine, medium and coarse, which has been either stone-ground (right), or made through a steel roller process (left and center).  Finely ground cornmeal can look like flour, while coarse stone-ground cornmeal, usually with the hull and germ of the corn kernel left in, looks less refined and processed. (Coarse cornmeal will take longer to cook.) If a recipe does not specify what kind of cornmeal to use, choose medium-grind cornmeal.

: Cornmeal can be found in a variety of “grinds,” fine, medium and coarse, which has been either stone-ground (right), or made through a steel roller process (left and center). Finely ground cornmeal can look like flour, while coarse stone-ground cornmeal, usually with the hull and germ of the corn kernel left in, looks less refined and processed. (Coarse cornmeal will take longer to cook.) If a recipe does not specify what kind of cornmeal to use, choose medium-grind cornmeal.

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