Chopped Chicken Livers
(Jewish liver paté spread)
For Ashkenazi Jews, chopped chicken livers, or just chopped liver, is part of a traditional Passover, Rosh Hashanah or Hannukah meal. This simple paté is also standard fare in Jewish delicatessens, where it is served in a hefty sandwich.
Schmalz — rendered chicken fat — enriches the liver spread and lends it a rich flavor and silky texture. For those skittish about all that chicken fat, we give lower(ish)-fat alternatives in the variations below.
Makes about 2 cups, or enough for about 4 to 6 people
- Rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) -- 1/4 cup
- Onion, minced -- 1
- Chicken livers, trimmed of any external fat and membrane -- 1 pound
- Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and roughly chopped -- 2
- Salt and pepper -- to taste
- Heat the schaltz in a medium skillet over medium flame. Add the onions and saute until translucent and just beginning to brown.
- Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just cooked through and browning a little. Take care not to overcook them or they will be dry. Remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes to cool.
- Add the liver and onions mixture and the chopped hard-boiled eggs to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Avoid overprocessing to a puree. You could also use the coarse die of a meat grinder to grind the mixture instead.
- Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper and chill for at least an hour to let the flavors marry. Serve as an appetizer with crackers, matzo or rye toasts.
Chopped Chicken Liver Notes and Variations
- How to make schmaltz and gribenes: The easiest way to get schmaltz is to save any fat that collects in the roasting pan from a roast chicken. Just skim off the fat and strain it through a fine-meshed sieve. To make schmalz from scratch, save the fat and skin from a chicken that you are using in a different recipe. Rinse the skin well, pat it dry and chop it into small pieces. Add the skin to a skillet and cook over over low heat, stirring occasionally, to render the fat and gently brown the skin (gribenes). This process should take about 35 to 45 minutes. Strain the schmaltz through a fine-meshed sieve and store refrigerated for up to three months. Return the gribenes to the saute pan and cook further with a finely chopped onion and a big pinch of salt over medium heat until the onion is softened and the gribenes are well browned, another 20 to 30 minutes. Voila, Jewish bacon! Gribenes are great stirred into your chopped liver.
- Substitutes for chicken fat: Because liver is naturally high in both fat and cholesterol, many people prefer to use substitutes for the schmalz. Some cooks use a combination of margarine and olive oil or olive oil alone. Or use a neutral vegetable oil. Butter is tasty too, but it's not kosher. Or skip the fat altogether and lightly poach the onions and liver in chicken stock instead of sauteing them. Drain off the stock before pulsing the livers in the food processor.
- Beef liver: You can also use beef or calf liver for chopped liver. Trim any fat or touch membrane from the liver, then cut it into medium-sized cubes before proceeding with the recipe above.
- Other flavor additions: Stir in a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley or a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme. For a subtle, grown-up flavor, add a splash of sherry, Madeira or marsala wine. Gribenes from making schmalz add a pleasant crunch.
- Chopped liver sandwiches: Chopped liver makes a delicious and indulgent spread for sandwiches. Use rye or pumpernickel bread slathered with mustard. Top the liver with a sprinkle of gribenes, thinly sliced onion, a leaf of lettuce and a dill pickle on the siide.