Ahhh, chopped liver. Not for everyone’s palate, to be sure, but if you’re among those who like it, the good news is that it’s far simpler to make than you might think.
My chopped liver memories go back to my early teens. I’d smell the chicken livers sautéing in our Long Island kitchen and would beg mom to help. I’d seen her use what I thought was the coolest kitchen contraption I’d ever seen: a meat grinder. This was a go-to tool in many old-time Jewish kitchens, because it was the preferred way (remember, we weren’t spoiled with food processors yet) to grind everything from chicken livers to beef and lamb.
The heavy machine – 11-year-old me thought it weighed a ton – sat on the counter and one of mom’s opaque white Pyrex bowls was positioned to catch everything coming through the grinder. I admit I was overly anxious to turn the crank. I got my chance, and boy, was it worth the wait. The chicken livers started as roughly chopped pieces going into the grinder and came out in long strings that looked like brownish spaghetti.
Although I didn’t have the meat grinder from my childhood to use, which mom told me came from my nana, I relied on my food processor – though not nearly as cool – to do the job.
My chopped liver debuted last Saturday night at our Break the Fast light dinner marking the end of Yom Kippur. It had good liver flavor, with hint of the sherry vinegar, and the texture leaned more toward smooth than chunky.
Easy Chopped Liver
2½ pounds of chicken livers, fresh if available
2 to 4 tablespoons rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) or olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, small dice
¼ cup red wine
3 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and roughly chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Heat a large sauté pan or skillet to medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. (I couldn’t find schmaltz at several grocery stores.) When the oil is shimmering, add about half the chicken livers, making sure not to crowd the pan.
2. Sauté them for about 5 minutes or until they turn golden brown. Cut into one or two of the larger pieces; they should be slightly pink. If so, turn them over and sauté the other side. When both sides are done, use a slotted spoon and move them to a bowl. Add the rest of the chicken livers to the pan and sauté both sides as you did with the first batch. Check for slight pink on the inside again, then move the second batch to the bowl.
3. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same pan and add the onions. Sauté on medium-high heat until they start to look translucent, but not caramelized. Spoon them into the bowl with the chicken livers.
4. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bits of liver and onion; pour everything into the bowl.
5. Add the hard-boiled eggs and parsley; mix until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I started with about ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper.)
6. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse half the mixture 4 or 5 times. Keep an eye on the texture and don’t process enough to purée. Scoop the first batch into another bowl, process the remaining batch, and transfer it to the bowl.
7. Stir in the sherry vinegar. Taste again for seasoning.
8. Chill for an hour or more.
9. Serve on toasted bagel chips, crackers, or matzo. It also can be a rustic dip for sliced mushrooms, carrot sticks, or zucchini rounds.