Bhakti’s Chopped Liver

January 19, 2013
By Holly Jennings

Bhakti's chopped liver

Introducing Guest Blogger Bhakti Ziek

I’m very happy to be introducing Bhakti Ziek to you. If you read my previous posting about Jewish Corn Bread, her name will be familiar to you.

Bhakti has her own blog (click here to go to it) where she writes about textiles, life, food, and more. More importantly, to this blog anyway, Bhakti is a member of the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club. To accompany the authentic sour rye breads she planned to make for the latest DCCC potluck (for Secrets of a Jewish Baker), she honed and re-honed a delicious recipe for chopped liver. I asked if she’d be willing to share the recipe with DCCC readers. She said yes, and here it is. Thank you Bhakti. HJ

A Recipe for Chopped Liver

By Bhakti Ziek

We all have foods that we detested as children and love as adults—avocados top the list for me. For many people, liver fits the bill, though probably half of those children still dislike it as adults. I always enjoyed fried liver and onions, while my sister left the room gagging. I also liked chopped liver, something I know she has grown to like too. So what does that chopped liver of my memory taste like? It is chunky, not a smooth paste; it has egg and onion in it. The onion is slivered so some bites end with a length of onion to savor. And there are parts of the liver that are almost like chewing gum, not the flavor, just the chew. So when the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club started to do Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein, and I discovered a recipe for my favorite childhood bread—Corn Bread (the Jewish type which is a rye and doesn’t have corn meal in the recipe)—I knew that I would also make chopped liver to go with it.

I like that the Internet is full of food recipes and images, as well as videos. In the last six weeks I have probably read most of the articles and watched many of the videos related to chopped liver. My first corn bread attempts tasted great but did not rise and look the way I expected. My first chopped liver attempt also tasted good, but didn’t meet my expectations. For one, using my food processor, I turned it into a paste, smoother than I wanted. Secondly I couldn’t find schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) in this area nor could I obtain the fat to render it myself from local grocers. All the recipes called for vegetable oil as a substitute, so I used that instead of the olive oil that is my main oil. And I didn’t add enough salt, as noted by a friend.

As the Dowdy Corners potluck approached, and my corn bread got better (though strangely, the loaf I made for the potluck remained as flat as the first time I baked this bread) I knew I had to improve my chopped liver. So again I reviewed all the articles, images and videos and came up with the following—which I think tastes as good as my memory of it and maybe better. I say better because of the Madeira wine that Ina Garten uses in her chopped liver recipe and that I used in mine. I still couldn’t find schmaltz but the man at the Centerra branch of the Co-op Food Store in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where I bought all my ingredients, pointed out the small container of duck fat, so I used that. Some recipes mention trimming the membranes and connective tissue off the chicken livers but the ones I purchased looked fine, and I decided maybe the chewing gum factor I wanted came from those bits. As to the onion, my first attempt used slivers of onion but this time I diced it. There was no rationale to this decision. So here is my final recipe:

6 large eggs
1½ pounds chicken livers
2 small onions
4 to 5 tablespoons duck fat
⅓ cup Madeira wine
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoons black pepper

Hard boil the eggs (I even googled how to do this just to be sure): Place the eggs in a pot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and immediately lower the temperature so the water simmers for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let sit for 12 minutes. Rinse the eggs in cold water until cool. Peel and let sit in a bowl until needed.

Clean the chicken livers: Place the chicken livers into a colander and wash with cool water then leave to drain. (If needed, trim the membranes and connective tissue off the chicken livers.)

Prepare the onions: Chop the onions, not too fine and not too coarse. In a large frying pan (I used a non-stick pan), heat 2 tablespoons of the duck fat, add the onions, and cook over low heat slowly until translucent. Then increase the heat to brown the onions, and add the Madeira. Stir the onions and Madeira for 2 to 3 minutes on high heat. The Madeira will boil and thicken. Scrape everything into a large bowl and set aside. Leave the pan on the stove for the chicken livers.

Cook the liver: Lightly dry the liver with a paper towel. In the same pan that you used to fry the onions, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the duck fat and melt over medium-high to high heat, adjusting for your stove. When hot, add the chicken livers. Leave for a minute or two and then turn them over. Leave again for a minute or two, then start stir frying them. Cook them for a total of 6 to 8 minutes. They should be cooked but not over-cooked. Some parts may still be pink but not red raw. Scrape the cooked chicken livers and any liquid in the pan into the bowl with the onions.

Combine Everything: Cut the eggs into halves and then half again and add to the bowl with the onion and chicken livers. Add the salt and pepper and stir everything together. Place half of the mixture into the bowl of a food processor with metal blade and pulse 8 times. Be quick with each pulse—don’t hold your hand on the button. Check after 6 pulses because that might be enough. You want the items to be chopped but not turned into a paste. Put into a bowl and pulse the remaining ingredients. Add them to the bowl. Chill overnight (I guess a few hours is enough) and serve. I highly recommend you serve it with the Jewish Corn Bread that you make yourself.

Recipe Text©Bhakti Ziek
Photography©Holly Jennings



3 Comments to “Bhakti’s Chopped Liver”

  1. Hello Bhakti!
    Nice memories! I wish I could send you a jar of schmaltz from the kosher grocer in Brookline!
    But I generally make my own like my grandmother and aunts. I render chicken fat whenever I make chicken. Just pull the fat from the chicken and skin and cook in a frying pan. Pour the oil in a glass jar and refrigerate. Just do this each time you are using chicken and add to the Jar I also skim the fat from the top of chicken soup after it has solidified over night in the fridge. Or wh
    You can put all the bits of chickens fat in a Baggie and put into the freezer until ready to use.
    I have the wooden bowl my nana and aunts used to make chopped liver in and I treasure it and the memories of a youth full of Friday night dinners at their apartment in New York City.

    Now I will try making the corn bread!
    Isn’t Greenstein ‘s book wonderful!

  2. Thanks for the tip on making schmaltz. I’ve seen recipes that call for it, but could never figure how to get enough from the chicken I was cooking. I can see now that you constinually add to your stash, until you have enough to use in a recipe. I’m going to try it. I like the idea of using all parts of les animaux.

  3. Yes. I remember little jelly jars in my aunt’s refrigerator with strata of chicken fat.


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