The other day, Jackie and our dinner guest had a yen for calf’s liver, something I love to cook but hate to eat: Liver is one of only two foods to which I have a profound aversion. When I went to the butcher to buy them some, I got myself a nice pork chop, then got to thinking about an accompaniment that would do the job for both – beyond the inescapable mashed potatoes.Caramelized onions spiked with vinegar was the answer, as it often is. When I’ve made these in the past, I’ve always done it by fussing over a skilletful of onions and butter (and sometimes sage leaves), getting them brown and soft, then deglazing the pan with vinegar and simmering for a bit. And it does take some fussing, which I can live without when I have other things to do, such as looking at videos on YouTube.That is not (always) a waste of time, for it was on YouTube that, in a TV segment from 15 or 20 years ago, I saw the late chef-restaurateur Joël Robuchon and the chef of the marvelous Epicure restaurant in the Paris hotel Le Bristol, Eric Frechon, employing a clever, simple technique to make the perfect vinegared caramelized onions (for a dish of calf’s liver, as it happens). How simple is it? Well, once you’ve shoved the pan of onions into the oven, it requires no intervention apart from an inspection part way through the cooking.Though I’ve retained the technique, I’ve adapted the recipe, adjusting timing, oven temperature and proportions to yield a chestnut brown, sweet-tart, versatile onion “jam” that would be as good on a hamburger as by the side of a slice of liver (or a pork chop). If you’d like to add a few whole fresh sage leaves to the pan, feel free.
This recipe might seem like a bit of a project — the pistachio vinaigrette, ideally, should sit for about two nights — but it's well worth the wait and all the work. Smoking the beets lends them an umami component that makes them just a little bit special.
See all beef recipes.