Fussing About Foie Gras? Try Chopped Chicken Liver!

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.

Last year’s birthday

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.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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12 Responses to Fussing About Foie Gras? Try Chopped Chicken Liver!

  1. Patti Winker says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for the simple recipe! My hubby and I love chicken livers in lots of forms. He makes oven fried chicken livers for dinner sometimes and I always look forward to those nights. Last year when we went to NYC, we enjoyed mass quantities of chopped liver from Carnegie Deli as we walked through Central Park. This year we weren’t hungry enough for the mass quantity they sell and couldn’t figure out how to get a smaller serving fast enough to prevent ticking people off in line… so we skipped it. Now I’m hungry for chopped liver, I have a freezer full of ‘schmaltz’ I made a few months ago, and now I have a good recipe! I can’t wait to make “Mom’s Chopped Liver.” (Schmaltz in my freezer and a hankerin’ for chopped liver… funny. No Jewish ancestry… that we know of, anyway. ha!)


  2. Great post! I’m salivating. I never have chopped liver except when Ma makes it. it’s the type of thing I would love to make and even more love to eat on a continual basis. Alas, If I make it here, I’m eating alone(save for the cat and dog – they would happily indulge). My spouse and daughter? Wouldn’t touch the stuff with a 39 1/2 foot pole. My friends and neighbors not ‘adventurous’ enough. I never thought of chopped liver as an adventure – just a staple. I did make it once for a party appetizer – one or two folks dabbled in it to be poite but then moved on to the ‘safer’ cheese tray or guacamole. Ugh! What’s wrong with these folks? Damn. Still salivating here. The 22nd cannot come soon enough.
    BTW – Still debating what to make for dessert – definitely regular old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies without nuts -for those unadventurous family members that don’t like nuts! Oy can’t win.


  3. nancy Polster says:

    I am sorry to say I am not a chopped liver lover nor is my family but we love mocked chopped liver made with sauteed mushrooms. Do you or any of your readers have a good recipe for that? Happy Birthday to your mom. She sounds adorable!!!


  4. Nancy C-J says:

    Mmmmmmm I only make chopped liver twice a year (Passover and Rosh Hashonah) . Otherwise the cardiologist better be on call. Schmeer the schmaltz on the rye bread (Or matzoh), add the chopped liver, close it up and OMG nirvana!!!


  5. I love chicken livers. My family does not. This recipe has sparked my tastebuds and I plan to make them. Thanks.


  6. Northern Narratives says:

    Happy Birthday to your mother 🙂


  7. SMB says:

    Ooo, sounds delish!


  8. Happy Bday to your Mom! My MIL makes a mean faux chicken liver with green beans, and her older sister always did the real chicken liver! Both divine!


  9. adinparadise says:

    Foie gras is also way too rich for me. Your mom’s recipe sounds great. Happy Birthday to her. I’m sure her party will be a deliciously happy family get-together.


  10. Barbara klein says:

    Thank you for your good wishes and your comments about “Gehocte Lebe” Sorry, chicken schmaltz went by the wayside a long time ago, but we do our best. I could never see the point of that faux “string bean” chopped liver. Thank you again, would love to meet all of you
    Barbara, Lisa’s Mom.


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