Fegatelli, ancora for a snowy day
It’s snowing. We are at a halt in the countryside, other than the slow proceeding to town to vote by all my neighbors. They’ve been so dispirited about this election that I’m grateful that they gathered the nerve to go. I have very good neighbors.
Anyway, I have been challenged to make a dish that is something filled or stuffed. I’m still on a reduced carbohydrate diet, so many dishes were tempting but not sensible. After all, with the roads as slick as a con-man’s spiel, who would eat them before I lost my self-control? And so I am making fegatelli. Almost no one makes this dish nowadays and it’s a crying shame, because it is one of the most distinctively Italian dishes, really unlike anybody else’s food, in my opinion. I haven’t made it since 2005.
This la rete, or the net. It is sometimes called net fat in English. It’s a natural part of the pig, thin and light and stretchy, and is the web by which my recipe hangs. I’m not sure it will be accepted as a filled dish. I’m pretty sure no one will make this top on their list of things to try. That’s a shame, too. It’s just delicious. In other countries than Italy you need a butcher to ask for it and for pork liver in a piece, rather than slices. You also need fresh bay leaves, and you may for the first time discover what bay leaf actually tastes like, because here it’s a distinguishable note, not just a simmered-in part of a herbal symphony.
Assuming your liver has come from a proper vendor and arrives already cleaned of veins and membranes, start here. If it has those things you will need to prepare it yourself before beginning.
Cut the liver into chunks and the rete into pieces just big enough to fasten around them. You lay a chunk of liver on the net, then add a bay leaf and then make a gift package of it, fastening with a toothpick. Do them all.
Heat a capacious frying pan to moderate heat, and add a thin coating of olive oil. Place the fegatelli into it, then lower the heat to low. I usually put a couple of scraps of the net fat into the oil so that when they simmer I can see the pan is ready. All you need now is patience, because the fegatelli cook slowly, always slowly, and you have to turn them as the bottoms brown, using tongs. I find that they need turning when the bottom browns enough to be free of the pan, since they stick at first. It takes a bit of attention to get all six sides browned, since some want to topple. When they are nearly done, lightly salt them. It takes less salt than meat usually does, and I don’t know why.
When you surmise they might be done, after perhaps 30 minutes of slow cooking, take one out and cut it in two. It should be distinctly pink inside, but not the maroon of raw liver.
As you can see, some have just been turned and the rest are just as they were when put in the pan.
So this is what you have when you’ve finished. The rete has disappeared, melted into the olive oil and providing a delicate flavor you can get no other way. I serve them just like this, warning diners to remove the bay leaf as they cut them. While not as dangerous as dried bay leaf, these are definitely chewy and not terribly pleasant.
I would deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine, drizzle the resultant sauce sparingly over the fegatelli and serve with roasted or fried potatoes. A crunchy contract will be nice with the meaty chunks. Heck, if you’re going to eat liver cooked in pig fat why not fried potatoes, too? You can always have a nice salad afterward.
If you don’t eat them more often than every five years, I think you will come to no harm.