Fellow CES chef Roxchef hails from Venice. In this post, she gives us the recipe for this classic Venetian dish, together with a wonderful primer on the cuisine of her native city:
Fegato alla veneziana, or Venetian-style Liver, is one of the best known and appreciated Venetian specialties in the world. The origins of this dish, known in the local dialect as figà aea Venexiana, date back to Roman times, when they used to cook liver with figs to cover the strong smell of liver that may not have been the freshest.
The Venetians then replaced the figs with onions, creating this magnificent recipes. Traditional Venetian cuisine is based mainly on products coming from the lagoon: fish, vegetables and products of bird. The variety of Venetian dishes, despite its limited ingredients, is the result of cultural exchange that the city has had over the centuries, especially with the Eastern world, which (together with the necessity of preserving food for long sea journeys) led to the unique blend of flavors and spices that characterize the cuisine of Venice.
Such cultural influences have created lead to typically Venetian cooking methods as 'saor', which can be used to cook fish, meat and vegetables. The saor dish par excellence, not to be missed, are 'sardine al saor', fried sardines covered with a sauce of dried onions in vinegar with grapes, pine nuts and wine.
The fish is the basis for many local dishes: octopus, spider crabs, cuttlefish, eel, sole, sea bream and all sorts of bluefish are the basic ingredients of Venetian cuisine. Our cultural influences do not just come from the Near East, but also from the north, as evidenced by such dishes as baccalà mantecato, salt cod creamed with olive oil, peanut seeds and garlic.
Other typical Venetian dishes include first courses like risotto, perhaps the most famous Venetian risotto being 'risi e bisi', or rice and peas, rice with onions, garlic and fresh peas. Pasta e fagioli, or pasta and beans, can be found throughout northern Italy, in some of its most extravagant variations. Game is frequent in Venetian cuisine: polenta and 'osei', small birds, larks and thrushes, cooked with bacon and sage.
But perhaps the most famous dish in the world of traditional cuisine is this Venetian-style Liver, thin slices of calf's liver cooked in lots of onion and accompanied by grilled polenta.
Many people will add vinegar to this dish, but the way I see it, vinegar does not go ... a little bit of butter is all it needs ... but just a bit, as the dish is already a little heavy. Add anything else and it's not really a true fegato alla veneziana. But then, some folks like to add a drop of white wine
or Marsala or even a bit of cognac, according to his or her taste.