About this time every year, there’s a flurry of emails and phone calls between my three siblings and me. Why? We’re planning what to make for mom’s birthday, July 22.
I asked her a few weeks ago what she wanted. “Anything you kids do is fine.” Then seconds later, “a nice filet mignon would be great.”
So steak it is and we’ll bring appetizers, side dishes and dessert. While we’re all good cooks and bakers, my sister Madeline makes the best festive cakes. She’s debating between coconut layer cake with hot fudge sauce and a butter pecan cake.
And my mother, who can’t just let everyone else do the work even on her birthday, offered to make her “famous chopped liver.”
Chopped liver, a remnant from old world Jewish cooking like blintzes and stuffed cabbage, is a thick, chunky concoction, often mixed with sautéed onions, chopped hardboiled eggs and served on crackers. It can be a meal in itself. My mother makes it for every holiday dinner and warns us not to eat too much, so we have room for everything else.
We love this savory spread, not to be confused with pâté, which my 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking calls “relatives of the meat loaf clan.” Pâtés or terrines are mixtures of seasoned ground seafood, poultry, meat or vegetables.
And chopped liver certainly isn’t foie gras, the goose or duck liver specialty, popular in France and gourmet restaurants worldwide and served in tiny dollops on top of meat. It’s been in the news lately as California enacts a law to ban its production and sale. Controversial because how it’s made— grain is forced down the throats of the birds to fatten up the livers—a practice called gravage, animal activists are pitted against foie gras lovers, farmers and distributors.
Frankly, foie gras is too rich for me. I prefer “faux” gras: Mom’s Chopped Liver.
To make it: sauté a bunch of chopped onions and one pound of trimmed chicken liver in vegetable oil or rendered chicken fat called “schmaltz.” Toss into a food processor with some hardboiled eggs, add salt and pepper to taste, and pulse to desired consistency- chunky or smooth. Eat with celery or crackers.