Thursday, April 10, 2008

What Am I, Chopped Liver?

It's funny how as I've gotten older, my goals in life have changed. I can clearly remember being a teenager and having incredibly specific goals for my future. I not only had certain accomplishments set, but I had an exact timeline for when they would happen. As time has passed and I've grown older, more than just my goals has changed. I now focus less on specific accomplishments or when they happen. I can truly say that my main goal for my future is just to be happy. I don't know exactly what that means, but then again, I don't think most of us ever really know what we want or why we want it, or if we'll want it once we get it. After all, if the very specific goals of my youth had never evolved, I'd be married with two kids right now. Yikes.

I got to thinking about all this as I made yesterday's dinner. Despite my very vague current life goal of "happiness", I must admit that I have always had one everlasting 'life's mission', and that is to make people love foods with a bad reputation. With the possible exception of the much maligned anchovy, I think that no ingredient is looked upon with as much contempt as liver. I don't know if it's possible to make up for decades of overcooked liver and onions, but I certainly wish to try. The truth of the matter is that I love liver of all kinds--duck, calf, and chicken--I enjoy them all in a number of forms. Liver gets a bad rap for numerous unfair reasons.
First of all, nothing is worse than overcooked liver. Nothing. Seriously. So if you've ever tried liver and it was overcooked, I urge you to try it again when it's nice and pink in the middle. Second of all, it doesn't sound very appealing. It is however, ridiculously good for you, especially if you're low in iron like myself.

In honor of the upcoming Passover holiday (I'm not Jewish, so please feel free to correct anything I say that may be incorrect), I decided to make one of my favorite treats that I always make this time of year--chopped liver. Chopped liver is traditionally chicken liver with onions, cooked in schmaltz (chicken fat) and mixed with hard boiled egg. I've made half a dozen permutations of the traditional, basic recipe, and never found it entirely fulfilling. So, for the last few years I've spent a great deal of time perfecting a recipe that has a bit more sophistication and rounded out flavors while maintaining the authenticity of a traditional recipe to some degree.

For me, the answer came in the way of a few small tweaks. The first important change that I made was to really caramelize the onions until they were nice and crispy, instead of only cooking them until they start to brown (rendering them limp and flavorless). Secondly, I broiled the liver instead of cooking it in the pan with the onions. This way the onions stayed crisp and the water from the liver didn't muck up the dish. Lastly, I added a bit of vinegar to the mix for depth of flavor. Chopped liver always seemed to me to be begging for some kind of acid, and whether you use sherry, balsamic vinegar, or even brandy, it'll really pull everything together and cut the sweetness from the onions. And if you're feeling really fancy, you could always reduce some lovely balsamic vinegar to a thick glaze and drizzle it over each little liver topped cracker. So, did I manage to make chopped liver seem sexy and exciting? At all? Anyone?

Chopped Liver

1 lb chicken livers
6 Tbsp schmaltz (or a combo of olive oil and butter if you're squeamish)
2 cups thinly sliced onions (thin half moons are best)
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic or sherry vinegar

1. Preheat broiler. Broil livers on broiler rack 4 inches from the heat source for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the oven, allow to cool a bit and finely chop livers. Set aside.

2. Melt schmaltz in a skillet and sauté onions over medium heat until caramelized and crunchy. Add chopped liver pieces and sauté 1 minute more. Add vinegar and remove from heat.

3. Pour contents of skillet into a mixing bowl and add egg. Mix everything together until well blended and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill at least 3 hours in the refrigerator before serving. Serve with melba toast or toast points. Enjoy!


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