Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Green Kitchen: Chopped Liver

Green Kitchen is a bi-weekly column about nutritious, inexpensive, and ethical food and cooking. It's penned by the lovely Jaime Green.

As you may have read in this recent edition of Ask the Internet, I recently concluded thirteen years of vegetarianism. (The short version is that, back when I was fifteen, I tried going veg just to see if I could, and stuck with it largely out of stubbornness/determination. I later – like Queen Elizabeth & the Church of England – added some principles, but my belief that eating animals isn't wrong, but making them suffer is, is still compatible with conscientious meat eating. Also, I don't eat a lot of grains, so I was really, really bored.)

And lo, adding an entire food supergroup back into one’s options is fun! And tasty. It’s been a long time – I guess since I fell in love with farmers markets and cooking itself three or four years ago – since I’ve had such exciting culinary adventures. I roasted a whole chicken! I made stock from its carcass! I am developing an addiction to hamburgers! Etc.

I’m also reconnecting with a lot of foods from my (distant, almost-half-a-lifetime-ago) past. Rotisserie chicken is one of a very few meat-foods that never stopped making my vegetarian mouth water, and sure enough, it is amaaaaaaazing. I would take it over bacon any day.

This chopped liver comes out of both of those impulses – the adventures and the amazing foods from way back when. (Oh, and my new friendship with the small butcher’s shop half a block from my apartment.) Who am I to be afraid of some organs, I who have ventured into the unknown recesses of greenmarket farm stands, I who have taken home the ugly, strange, and cheap vegetables of every season? Also, dude, organs are CHEAP.

I bought my pound of chicken livers from Bob and Julio down the street from me – they sell organic chickens (among many other things, like homemade lasagna), and I guess not everyone wants every part of the bird? Which is bananas, because these things are tasty and super good for you – howsabout some vitamin A, a bunch of B vitamins, folic acid, iron, copper, and CoQ10, which helps your heart do its thing, along with plenty of protein?

And then there is the flashback factor. Specifically, flashbacks to my Grandma Martha’s studio apartment on Long Island, hanging out before a holiday dinner, tiny Jaime with her tiny cousins and sister in tiny party dresses, scooping rich chopped liver onto crackers or, given the season, little matzah squares. Were we too young and carefree to know that livers might be squicky? Or would we not even entertain that thought because the stuff was so darn good?

This recipe comes not from a Jewish Grandma but from my friend’s decidedly non-Jewish own mother, a lovelier and WASPier lady you never shall meet. But somewhere in the mists of history her great-greats and mine lived in adjacent cottages in a Polish village, and as far as I can tell across the gulf of, like, twenty years, this chopped liver recipe yields a product identical in taste to Grandma’s.

(That means it’s delicious.)


If this seems neato, you will also appreciate:

Chopped Liver
(makes 16 2-Tbsp servings)

1 lb chicken livers (thawed if they came frozen)
3 Tbs butter
½ onion, chopped (1/2 to ¾ cup)
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise (sorry Kris!)
Juice of half a lemon (or to taste)

1. Melt the butter in a sauté man over medium-high heat. Add onions and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and sauté until onions start to soften.

2. Add chicken livers and sauté until they are cooked through (no pink), about 10-15 minutes.

3. Pour/scrape all of that into a food processor. Add mayonnaise. Pulse until it’s the consistency you like – the worst that’ll happen if you overdo it is you’ll get a classy-as-heck mousse – adding a few squeezes of lemon juice to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
82.6 calories, 5.4g fat, 0.1g fiber, 7g protein, $0.23

1 lb chicken livers: 758 calories, 29.5g fat, 0g fiber, 111g protein, $2.50
3 Tbs butter: 305 calories, 34.6g fat, 0g fiber, 0.4g protein, $0.48
½ onion: 48 calories, 0.1g fat, 2g fiber, 1.3g protein, $0.30
A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
2 Tbsp mayonnaise: 200 calories, 22g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.20
Juice of half a lemon: 8 calories, 0g fat, 0.1g fiber, 0.1g protein, $0.13
TOTAL: 1322 calories, 86.2g fat, 2.1g fiber, 112.8g protein, $3.66
PER SERVING (TOTAL/16): 82.6 calories, 5.4g fat, 0.1g fiber, 7g protein, $0.23

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DMBY said...

At the holiday party at my boss's house, there was a vegetarian chopped liver - I was like, huh? I've never tried regular chopped liver, so I can't really tell you if it compares. But it was made out of green beans and crunchy onions and some stuff like that. It was pretty tasty.

The recipe seemed like it would be midwestern and/or jewish grandma. Other foods included a molded tuna spread, swedish meatballs, and red caviar mixed with whipped cream. It was very retro!

mollyjade said...

Vegetarian chopped liver is a Jewish thing. So you can have chopped liver with dairy meals.

Anonymous said...

In season fruits/veggies for March?

Dee Seiffer said...

LOVE chopped liver. Can't wait to try this recipe. I avoided it because I thought I had to use chicken fat. Mayo - never considered that. Thanks!

Katy said...

I'm not big on eating innards, but did find an outstanding vegetarian pate recipe, courtesy of NPR. It was Vegetarian Pate with Mushrooms and Cashews. The base was black eyed peas. (search: Pate: Decadent But Not Difficult : NPR)
Delish and no guilt. It was earthy and smooth - what a combo!

brandi said...

my jewish grandmother would plotz reading this recipe. oy vey. so not kosher. butter? mayonnaise? worcestershire sauce? I can see being a little skeeved out using chicken fat (which is DELICIOUS, by the way) but you could use unrefined coconut oil instead, or even just a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil. butter is just a big, fat, unkosher no. and I don't even keep kosher. and where's the hard-boiled egg? your 20 year gulf has definitely made you forget what chopped liver actually tastes like, but I can guarantee it didn't taste like this when your grandma in long island made it.