Calf’s Liver & Digital da Vinci

October 13, 2009

Learning never exhausts the mind.
~Leonardo da Vinci

One of history’s enduring geniuses. He was a great creative mind of the Italian Renaissance, hugely influential as an artist but also immensely talented as an engineer, scientist and inventor. Leonardo da Vinci was born near the town of Vinci in Tuscany in 1452, the illegitimate son of a local lawyer.

He has been considered one of the world’s most renowned sculptors, painters and architects producing such masterpieces as the cryptic mural of The Last Supper and the eternally smirking, shifty eyed Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci pondered, wrote and sketched freely on such eclectic subjects as geology, anatomy (studied in order to more accurately portray the human form), flight, gravity and optics, often flitting from subject to another on a single page, and writing in left-handed mirror script. He embarked on inventing the underlying basics for the bicycle, airplane, helicopter, and parachute some 500 years ahead of their time. And this blurb is giving him short shrift…just cannot wait to look in the mirror tomorrow morning and reflect on the accomplishments of the rest of us plebs. Da Vinci died on May 2, 1519, at Château of Cloux, near Amboise, France, where he was residing at the invitation of King Francois I, an avid patron of the arts.

This week, a forensic art investigator claimed a fingerprint found on what was presumed to be a 19th century German painting of a young woman and convinced leading experts that it is actually an original portrait by da Vinci now worth up to $150 million.

The painting of the woman—now identified as La Bella Principessa and believed to have been created around 1496 by the legendary Renaissance master—was purportedly purchased by a Canadian art collector in 2007 for the now modest sum of $19,000. A nearly sadistic uptick in value.

The fingerprint, believed to be of da Vinci’s middle or index finger, was found in the upper right hand corner of the work and matched one to a print from his unfinished painting St. Jerome in the Wilderness now housed in the Vatican museums. A rather precious and almost metaphorical fingertip (or footprint in today’s vernacular—why the shift in digits, extremities?). This stunning art world discovery would represent the first new painting attributed to da Vinci in more than a century.

Calf’s liver is a delicacy often served in Tuscany, da Vinci’s birthplace. Ergo, these truncated ramblings about the master and his fingers.

SAUTEED CALF’S LIVER

4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 lbs calf’s liver, sliced 1/4″ thick
2 T unsalted butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 fresh sage leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 C chicken stock
1 T honey
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T capers, drained and rinsed

Chopped tarragon, for garnish

In a large skillet, sauté bacon and onion in olive oil until bacon is crisp and onions are tender and just slightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Wipe out skillet and add butter and olive oil. Add garlic to pan over medium high heat and allow to cook some, but do not burn, then remove. While it heats, season liver with salt and pepper. Add sage and liver to pan, in batches if necessary, and sauté for about 2 minutes a side over medium high heat. The liver is done when it is golden on surface but still pink on inside, about 3 minutes per side. As pieces cook, transfer them to serving platter which is tented by foil to keep warm.

Stir in the stock, honey and vinegar to the skillet and reduce until thickened and can coat a spoon. Add the capers to the sauce to warm. Arrange the liver on plates, top or base with onions and bacon and then drizzle the sauce over the top.

Garnish with tarragon or another fresh herb of choice. Serve with tagliatelle, polenta or home made egg noodles.

Buon appetito, Marco!

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