Why It Works
- Checking the interior of the chicken livers to make sure they are still pink as they brown keeps them from turning grainy and tough.
- Caramelizing the onions adds a welcome depth and sweetness to the chopped liver.
The one thing I always get at Russ and Daughters is the chopped liver, my favorite. The smallest amount of chopped liver you can buy is a quarter pound. It comes in a small plastic cup not much larger than the cups you might get if you were ordering your hot dogs to go, with ketchup and mustard on the side. Chopped liver is a heavy thing.
Russ and Daughters is a purveyor of fine foods, opened by Eastern European immigrants, catering to the Jewish palate then, and still today. I remember frequenting the shop with some alarming regularity in the spring of 2012, just before I spoke on a panel at Wesleyan's food event Foodstock about the affinity Jews have for Chinese cuisine. (When I received the offer, I first thought that I have a great affinity for Jewish cuisine, and would that count too?)
In any case, I remember feeling woefully unprepared, which motivated me to go on frequent research visits to Russ and Daughters as well as Katz's Deli down on Houston Street. First I went and got a bagel sandwich. I went back another day for their bialys, and another day for their gefilte fish. Next door at Katz's I took it upon myself to order the reuben, the corned beef, and the tongue sandwich so as to fully expose myself to any opportunities for funny and interesting things to fall into my lap.
I realize now that this was not a very productive course of action. (Delicious, yes.) Or maybe you just have to find the humor and the excitement in your life, even if it means lowering your standards for what you find humorous or intriguing.
For instance, the guy making my bagel sandwich took about 10 minutes to toast a bagel and assemble the sandwich. He waited for the bagel to cool slightly before putting on the cream cheese and the tomatoes and onion. When I told him not too much onion, he pursed his lips and wrinkled his brows and said, "Don't worry, I'm going to make it really nice for you." And he did, and I laughed because it was sort of funny in the moment.
I remember loving that the lox and the bagel sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper that is twice as thick and heavy as regular wax paper. The paper was emblazoned with the Russ and Daughter's logo, a simple one. This was wax paper with personality. It spoke to the care and attention that made the store such a rarity. Like a kleptomaniac, I kept the wax paper from these visits in my cupboard. I didn't know what to do with it. The best I could come up with was to use it as lox-scented gift wrap.
Anyway, back to the liver. I like to eat chopped liver for breakfast, with rye crackers and a cup of coffee. I'm not exactly sure when most Jews or most people eat their chopped liver, but since I am Chinese I figure I'm not bound by any such cultural norms. Besides, it makes such a terrific breakfast. You get your hit of protein, the onions are oh so sweet, and the rye crackers taste good dipped in coffee.
The chopped liver at Russ and Daughter's is sweeter than most. It gets its sweetness from the onions. Of course all recipes for chopped liver call for sautéed onions to be mixed in with the liver purée, but what distinguishes the onions used at Russ and Daughters is just how very sweet they taste. I suspected that their onions are cooked for a long time.
Of course, Russ and Daughters would not give me the exact recipe that they use in-house.
So I asked, "Can you at least confirm that the onions are cooked for more than say, forty minutes, as many outside sources claim?"
No, they could not.
I tried again. "If I wanted my chopped liver to taste like the chopped liver at Russ and Daughters, then what would I do? Would I want to caramelize the onions?"
A pause. Then a reluctant: "That's what I'd do if I were you."
See what I mean? Very interesting indeed.
1 pound fresh chicken livers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, olive oil, or chicken fat
2 large onions, diced (about 3 cups)
3 hard boiled eggs
Season chicken livers with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken livers and sauté until the livers are lightly brown and still pink in the center, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and let cool. Pour off any residual juices in the pan.
Add the rest of the oil or fat and heat over low heat. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow onions to cool.
Coarsely chop the livers. Add the livers to a food processor and pulse until smooth, or until the desired consistency is achieved. Transfer to a medium bowl.
Dice the eggs, allowing the yolks to crumble. Add eggs, onions, and whatever cooking liquids remain in the pan to the puréed livers. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper, adjusting as needed. Serve cold with crackers or bread. Chopped liver is best eaten the day it is made, but can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days longer.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||11%|
|Total Carbohydrate 9g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 20mg||101%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|