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Since You Asked: Give liver a quick sniff

Sometimes you get liver and it tastes bad, and sometimes you get liver that tastes really good. So how do you get the ugly taste out of it (when it's bad)? Do you rinse it in water, saltwater, milk, anything?

— Peggy B., Central Point

Soaking liver in milk for 35 to 40 minutes before cooking could help mellow the flavor. But there's nothing you can do to revive a bad piece of liver. Throw it out, substitute another or ask for your money back.

There could be a number of reasons why liver tastes "bad." You may have been given strong-tasting beef liver rather than milder calf's liver. Or the liver might be older. One test for age is sniffing the liver — an off or ammonia-like odor is a warning sign.

"The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion" advises cooks to "look for liver that has a bright color and moist (not slick) surface. It should have a fresh, clean smell. Refrigerate, loosely wrapped, for no more than a day."

Sometimes, packaging can make liver feel slimy. Rinse it in cold water and check again.

Perhaps the easiest way for people to "get into" this organ meat is through chicken livers, which pack a lot of flavor into a bite-sized morsel. A classic preparation is chicken-liver pate. Here's a simple recipe from the "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook."

Put 2 tablespoons butter and two peeled and finely chopped onions in a pan. Cook slowly until onion is soft. Add a half-pound of chicken livers. Cook for 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and mash with a fork or chop in a blender. Add 2 tablespoons dry sherry to the pan, stirring and scraping to release brown bits; add to mashed liver and cool. Cream 1/2 cup butter and stir into the liver. Season with salt and more sherry if desired. Serve with Melba toast or crackers.

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