In view of the number of friends who nourish a passion for this preparation—a passion I understand intellectually but nonetheless fail to share (perhaps simply because pure liver I like only pinkly cooked and, in its unadorned state, pork liver does not number among those foods I most love), an unselfish impulse has banished my hesitation to give the recipe.
You will need a highly flavored, richly gelatinous stock. If you have veal stock on hand, use it—or a leftover pot-au-feu or poule-au-pot broth. Otherwise, make up a solid, vulgar stock out of pork and veal bones, beef, pork, and veal parings, chicken backs and necks, etc. A veal knuckle will lend sufficient gelatinous content or, lacking that, add a pig’s foot. Prepare it as usual, the meats and bones covered with cold water, brought slowly to a boil, skimmed several times. Add a pound of carrots, an onion stuck with a couple of cloves, a head of garlic, and a big bouquet garni packed with leek greens, celery, thyme, bay leaf, any other herbs that meet your fancy, and, by all means, if available, a branch of lovage, and coarse salt. Cook at a bare simmer, lid ajar, for about 4 hours, and strain.
To make it in larger quantity, the proportions need not be respected to the letter, the precise quantity of liquid necessary depending on the size and form of the cooking vessel in relation to the liver.
Old bed sheets (cotton or linen), torn into squares, are useful both for wrapping the meat and for straining the jelly.
Mix the ground herbs, the salt, and the pepper in a bowl with the strips of fatback, tossing and turning until they are evenly coated with the seasonings. Using a larding needle (not a butcher’s larder, which would tear the liver to shreds), thread the strips of fat repeatedly through the length of the liver, leaving ½-inch protrusions at either end. Work gently and unhurriedly so as not to damage or tear the liver. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, overnight or for up to 24 hours, turning the liver around in the marinade two or three times during this period.
Wrap the liver firmly in a square of cloth and tie it tightly. Place it in an oval cocotte, pour over the marinade, including the solid elements, the Cognac, and the melted stock—the liver should be largely submerged. Bring to the boiling point, skim, and cook, the lid slightly ajar, at the slightest suggestion of a simmer, for about 1¾ hours (2 hours or slightly over for a larger bulk of liver). Leave to cool until tepid, then remove and unwrap the liver and place it in a terrine just large enough to contain it. Pour the liquid through a strainer lined with a tightly woven cloth; it will take its time and should not be forced, but, as the weave becomes clogged with sediment, rearrange the cloth slightly so the liquid contacts new areas. Skim off any fat that may have settled on the surface. The jelly will probably have to be reduced a bit—taste for seasoning and put a tea-spoonful in a small container in the coldest part of the refrigerator to check its firmness in gelatin. If, after reduction, the stock seems still somewhat troubled, pass it a second time through a cloth—the jelly should be limpid but, for a preparation of this kind, it need not be crystalline. When you are satisfied with the stock, pour it over the liver. Chill for a day before serving. If traces of fat appear on the surface, they may be wiped off with a cloth dampened in hot water. Serve sliced, the cross-sectional view studded with the squares of fat.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.