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Great chopped liver: Who needs the deli when you’ve got a kitchen? – Part three

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Chopped liver (Flickr photo - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ )

“It’s time for chopped liver to make a comeback.” So writes Adam Roberts at amateurgourmet.com. In the past couple of articles, I looked at how the once beloved chopped liver had become the butt of so many jokes. The bridesmaid of the brunch, as it were. And then we met some die-hard (and even some new) fans. Today, we roll up our sleeves to prepare some chopped liver.

I note (with some amusement) that Sharon Lurie has deigned to title her recipe, Awesome Offal. Lurie explains, “offal seemed such an awful name for wonderful delicacies such as pickled tongue and chopped liver. So I decided to change the word offal (or ‘awful’ as my children like to call it) to ‘awesome.’” Her Chopped Liver and Bagel recipe calls for onions, brown sugar, hard-boiled eggs, chicken stock, ready-koshered chicken livers along schmaltz for frying. She adds, “OK, so you’ll start your diet on Monday!”

How to Make Chopped Liver – a very good step-by-step video

And here are some helpful hints from Tina Wasserman at ReformJudaism.org.

  • “Green on the liver does not mean that the liver is spoiled. It is just some of the bile that would make the chopped liver taste bitter, which is why it should be removed.
  • Do not overcook your eggs or they will not blend well with the liver when chopped.
  • Modern cooks often use mayonnaise to moisten the liver mixture. I prefer oil or rendered chicken fat, and then I season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.”

But wait, there’s more. The jewish-food CHOPPED LIVER archives have 30 variations including gehakte leber, Muriel’s Famous, Devora’s I Don’t Use A Recipe and reduced-calorie (hold the schmaltz!)

 

Martha Stewart – Chopped Liver Recipe

(Note from Mark: I love this clip because (a) Martha says chopped liver is one of her favourite foods and (b) just to hear Martha say “schmaltz.”)

Ah yes, the schmaltz. Since so many authentic recipes call for this wonder ingredient, I thought it merits its very own paragraph. According to Wikipedia, “Homemade Jewish-style schmaltz is made by cutting chicken or goose fat into small pieces and melting in a pan over low-to-moderate heat, generally with onions. After the majority of the fat has been extracted, the melted fat is strained through a cheesecloth into a storage container. The remaining dark brown, crispy bits of skin and onion are known in Yiddish as gribenes.” (Gribenes, another acquired Jewish taste!)

 

Feed Me Bubbe – Chopped Chicken Liver

Food writer Alison Ashton is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef – and someone who has not renounced her childhood love of liver. “I took to chopped liver right away, loving its rich, gamy quality (though as a preschooler, I misheard the name and called the stuff ‘chopped litter,’ a moniker her Grandma happily adopted). I can almost certainly say I was the only kid at [San Diego’s] Loma Portal Elementary who hoarded sandwiches of chopped liver on rye, withholding them from lunchroom black market swaps (not that my classmates were clamouring for them).”

Ashton has made certain modifications to her contemporary recipe, swapping schmaltz for canola oil, and using a food processor instead of a meat grinder. “I’ve also added a touch of brandy and toasted walnuts to lend it some French flair. But the result is still redolent with the flavour I first grew to love.”

 

Mayim Bialik’s Mock Liver

 Although chopped liver is high in protein, it also doesn’t skimp on the fat or cholesterol either. If you are vegetarian or just prefer a meatless variation, “mock” chopped liver recipes abound. Walnuts are often a key ingredient along with green beans and peas, lentils and mushrooms.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman grew up eating chopped liver but has hungered for a creamier pâté. In order to achieve that goal, Bittman admits that his use of butter instead of chicken fat may have his grandmother spinning in her grave. Since I’d prefer to not add to her spinning, I say thank goodness for Jewish cuisine writer Joan Nathan.

Nathan writes, also in the Times, “For a long time I thought that all chopped-liver recipes were essentially the same. Then someone shared this tasty French recipe, the perfect start to a dinner at Hanukkah or on any other special occasion. French Jews took lowly chopped liver and turned it into pâté by passing it through a food mill, adding a little brandy and corn or potato starch and then pouring it into a terrine that they baked in a bain-marie (water bath) and cooled.

“Voilà: completely kosher chopped-liver pâté.”