What am I, Chopped Liver?
March 6, 2008 § 2 Comments
Thankfully, yes!! And I wouldn’t want it any other way! Although the idiom usually has a derogatory connotation (something along the lines of being perceived as being of little value or worth), chopped liver has found its way into my heart (and stomach) as well as the rest of the family. Gosh, and we’re not even Jewish. Granted, we each like some kind of liver dish, ah, that is well prepared liver dish, so it wasn’t too hard of a stretch for chopped liver to make it onto our favorites list.
The history of chopped liver is a bit…choppy (sorry). But it’s been a staple in Jewish families for many centuries and there is a good reason why. Forget that it’s organ meat (if you haven’t indulged in organ meat, you don’t know what you’re missing). Think of chopped liver as Jewish foie gras, or Jewish pâté. Would it be more acceptable if it was called Chopped Pâté de Foie Gras, or would you have still gone “blech?” I would guess that you wouldn’t “blech” it if you like liver. Really.
Some of you might recall that I briefly mentioned chopped liver in previous posts. So now, I’m (finally) posting about the recipe. I came across Ina Garten’s chopped liver recipe when I was searching for various recipes that used Madeira wine. I thought, huh (I really did think “huh”), I like liver, I like Madeira wine, I like cooked onions, and if it turns out not so good, I’ll give it to the Eating Machines cuz they’ll eat anything (really, they do). Yeah, that will work!
- 2 lbs chicken livers
- 1/2 C rendered chicken fat (also called schmaltz)
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1/3 cup Madeira wine (I had sweet so that’s what I used)
- 3 extra-large eggs, hard boiled, peeled, and cut into chunks
- 1/4 C minced fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
A quick note about schmaltz. Chopped liver tastes the best (and more authentic) when using schmaltz. I tried this dish the first time with Canola oil since I didn’t have any fat to render. It turned out good. But the second time I made it, I made schmaltz and the taste was much richer, made a world of difference. Even one of the Eating Machines said it was better. The other one? Well, she was too busy eating. See below on instructions on how to render fat.
Drain the livers and saute in rendered chicken fat (reserving 3 tablespoons of it for the onion) over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, turning once. The livers should be just barely pink inside. I cut open the thicker pieces to make sure they’re cooked to just barely pink. Make sure you don’t overcook the livers or they will be dry. Put cooked livers into a large bowl.
In the same pan and still on medium-high heat, saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of the chicken fat for about 10 minutes until brown. Add the Madeira to deglaze the pan. Scrape the pan to get all the bits off the bottom of the pan (that’s where a lot of the flavors are). Cook for about a minute. Pour the onion mixture into the bowl with the livers. Add the eggs, parsley, thyme, kosher salt, and black pepper to the bowl. Toss to combine. Now chop all the ingredients by hand to a coarse texture. Remember, coarsely chopped!
I use my food processor to do the chopping but be careful not to over-pulse it. The result should not be a puree or pâté like consistency. If you’re going to use a food processor, do it in 2 batches. Use the steel blade and pulse only about 6 times/batch. Repeat with remaining mixture. Check it for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Then chill before serving on crackers, matzo, or crusty bread. I like to eat it on baguette sliced about 1/2″ thick, slightly toasted. You can store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. But note that it tastes the best on the first day.
You should render fat on low heat, cooking slowly. The fat should be in single layer in the pan. If you have a cast iron pan, now is a great time to use it and your pan will love you for it. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fat, but don’t be surprised if it takes 30 minutes or longer. But keep at it and you’ll be rewarded! Turn the fat pieces every now and then and keep cooking until all the fat pieces are shriveled. Throw the shriveled pieces away, let the rendered fat cool. Next, strain the fat either through 2 layers of cheese cloth or a double layer of paper towels in a sieve. I’ve used the paper towel in a funnel method with good results. Now you can put the fat in a canning jar and freeze until you need it.
Now I know this is a faux pas for a Jewish dish but I have used bacon fat in this dish and it was great. I’m not Jewish and bacon fat was all I had and I certainly wasn’t going down the Canola oil route again. Don’t send me hate mail, please.
Well, there you have it. Next time you hear someone say, “What am I , chopped liver?” You should reply, “You should be so lucky.” Now go and eat well.