Seder Today

Belle’s Chopped Liver

Lisa Schroeder

Photo by Cydney Puro


Ingredients:

Makes about 2 1/2 cups, or 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 pound chicken livers 
  • 3 tablespoons chicken fat (divided; Love Note 1) or canola oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 5 hard-cooked eggs, 1 yolk removed and discarded or reserved for another use (Love Note 2)

Directions:

  1. Place the livers in a colander set in the sink to drain any excess liquid.
  2. Heat a large (10- to 12-inch) sauté pan over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, or until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat. Once it has almost melted, add the onion.  Sauté until the onion starts to color and soften.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to sauté until the onion is lightly caramelized, but not dark brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove onion from the pan (try to leave as much fat in the pan as possible) and set aside.
  3. Place the empty pan over high heat until it is very hot, about two minutes.  Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of chicken fat. When it’s hot, add the chicken livers. (It’s important the fat and the pan are very hot so the livers sauté rather than steam.) Season with salt and pepper. Sauté for 4 or 5 minutes or until the livers are cooked through.  They should be brown on the outside and pink in the center. Do not overcook or the chopped liver will be dry.  
  4. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Using a food processor, meat grinder or the grinder attachment of an electric mixer, grind or process half the liver with half the hard-cooked eggs and half the sautéed onion. If using a food processor, pulse the mixture, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl, until it is a coarse purée. (It should be smooth, but not the consistency of baby food, either).  Scrape the puréed liver mixture into a bowl.
  5. Repeat with the remaining liver, sautéed onion and hardboiled egg.  Add to the mixing bowl, combine with the first batch and taste for seasoning. Adjust with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Spoon the liver into a serving bowl, individual ramekins or press it into a greased mold (Love Note 3). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid (so the surface doesn’t get dried out), and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Or freeze in small portions and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. .  Serve with matzoh, crackers or thin slices of toasted challah or brioche bread (Love Note 4).

Love Notes

  1. Sautéing the livers and onions with chicken fat is traditional, authentic, and definitely a way to add another layer of flavor. I tried to make it with canola oil but chopped liver aficionados complained, so I switched to the more traditional chicken fat and have heard nothing but compliments ever since.  Ask your local butcher for chicken fat, or look for it in the kosher frozen foods section of your supermarket. An even cheaper option? Save the fat you skim off when making chicken stock or chicken soup. Freeze it in small plastic deli containers and you can take spoonfuls out as needed.  Liver is already high in cholesterol, so if you’re watching your intake you can substitute vegetable oil for the chicken fat. But don’t be tempted to use olive oil, which will smoke when sautéeing the livers at high heat.  
  2. There’s a technique to doing anything in a kitchen and hard-cooking (not boiling!) an egg is an important one to learn.  To hard-cook eggs: Place eggs in a saucepan just large enough to accommodate them in a single layer and keep them completely submerged in water. Cover them by 1 inch with hot water.  Place pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil, cover, turn off heat and let sit for 12 minutes.  Remove cover, pour out most of the hot water, place pot in sink and run cold water over eggs to cool quickly.  To peel, knock eggs on a hard surface a few times to break apart the shell.  Peel and rinse under cold water.    
  3. To unmold the liver, fill a sink or bowl with hot water, dip the mold into the water until the water comes up an inch from the top, and hold it there for about 30 seconds. Place the mold on the counter and run a knife along the edge. Place a plate on top of the mold and carefully flip the mold over onto it.  Give it a shake or two until you feel it release. If it doesn’t happen on the first try, repeat by dipping the mold in the hot water again.
  4. A strongly flavored cracker will muddle the taste of the chopped liver. Instead, serve it with something mild, like matzoh, water crackers or crostini.