Chopped liver, along with gefilte fish, has a reputation for being–well, gross. But for every Jew who gags at the mention of this cholesterol-filled European delicacy, there’s at least one whose mouth waters. Made with chicken livers, fried onions, and often with hard-boiled eggs, chopped liver is spread on crackers or challah at Shabbat meals, and served in many a Jewish deli.
It’s hard to figure out exactly how chopped liver came to be so deeply connected with Eastern European Jewish cuisine. Many have speculated that because Jews were often poor, they ate every part of a chicken in order to be thrifty, including parts like the liver that would otherwise seem unappetizing. It may be that chopped liver was common among German, Polish, or Russian non-Jews at one point, and the recipe was simply adopted by the Jewish community in those countries. In any event, chopped liver has been embraced by Jews of all generations, to the extent that one sometimes finds chopped liver sculptures at bar or bat mitzvahs and other Jewish celebrations. Chopped liver has made the transition from food of the peasants, to high-brow kitsch.
Though far from healthy (chopped liver is sometimes called “a heart attack on a plate”), there’s something comforting. and nostalgic about digging into a plate of your bubbe’s famous chopped liver. Kveller presents a basic recipe for this Jewish traditional food, along with some suggested variations. We think they’re all delicious, and definitely not just chopped liver.
Basic Chopped Liver
Makes 6 cups
3 lbs chicken livers*
Oil for cooking
2 large onions, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken livers in pan coated with oil. Sauté until dry.
In another pan, sauté onions until they are caramelized and soft.
Once livers are cool, put them in a food processor and chop until smooth, but not puréed. Then add onions into the food processor, and pulsate the mixture until it gets to a consistency you like. You can also use a large wooden bowl and a hand chopper instead of a food processor to avoid pulverizing the livers.Some prefer a chunkier chopped liver, others like it smoother and pate-like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
* Raw livers, even from a kosher animal, are not inherently kosher. Click here to find more information about broiling a liver to make it kosher.
For an “old-world” taste: Instead of oil, saute the livers in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).
For a less greasy dip: Leave out oil, and broil the livers instead of sautéing them.
For egg-lovers: Add about 6 hard-boiled eggs to the mixture, together with the onions.
For a moister consistency: Add about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to taste.
For veggie-lovers: Replace 1 lb of the liver with 8 oz of chopped mushrooms, and add 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.