Hacked By Imam
Fried polenta with warm tomato sauce. Comfort food that’s a tiny bit fancy.
Hacked By Imam
Chopped liver like my mom makes. Mainly because my mom made it with me.
To Mom and to me, cooking is like breathing. I know that cooking is a skill that has to be taught, but both of us have been cooking for so long that it feels like we’ve been doing it all our lives. So I understood what she meant when I walked in with my camera and notebook to learn to make chopped liver and she shook her head.
“People think making my own chopped liver is such a big deal, but it’s practically the easiest thing in the world to make.”
It never occurs to her how daunting a recipe with several steps, even easy steps, can seem to a non-cook, and before I started this blog in 2009, it really didn’t cross my mind much, either. For the blog’s sake, I take photos and jot down quantities, but I don’t remember when I learned how to tell how long to cook something or how much onion to use, and I don’t write those things down in my normal day-to-day life. Knowing how to achieve the taste and texture I want feels like a part of me, and that’s mainly because Mom has been letting me help with the cooking since I was able to stand on a stool in the kitchen.
When I was planning what to cook for my first recipe back after a long break from blogging, I looked over the list of Mom’s recipes, the ones I’ve already done here, and was surprised not to see chopped liver. I grew up on the stuff, and it’s one of those things that is never as good in a restaurant or store as it is homemade. I think many of us have those things that we only like done a certain way, and the livers are like that for me.
While we made these this morning, Mom told me about a time when a friend of a friend from Israel was visiting and Mom made chopped liver for her. The woman from Israel was so happy to have some food that reminded her of home, and today, I’m feeling that, too.
If you haven’t had chopped liver before, it may remind you of pâté. Pâté is delicious and fancy, but chopped liver is, well, chopped liver. It’s cheap and homey and casual and the perfect thing to eat on toast as an easy, quick meal. Mom likes it best on rye toast. I am more likely to use white toast or crackers (or just a spoon).
If you’re a novice cook and you like chopped liver, this really is a great starter recipe, and it’s something different to add to your hors d’oeuvres repertoire. There’s nothing difficult about it, and I’ll even help you with shortcuts and substitutions. Plus, the quantities are forgiving. Just make sure your livers are fresh and you’re good to go.
Either a meat/food grinder or a food processor
A frying pan (nonstick isn’t necessary)
A large bowl
1 pound of fresh chicken livers
1/3 cup schmaltz. If you don’t have schmaltz, you can use oil or butter. There’s also a mayo alternative — see note
1 large onion, chopped (the pieces should be small enough to fit into your grinder chute or processor bowl)
3 hard-boiled eggs (if you’re not sure how to boil an egg, Elise will help you out)
2 or 3 good-sized slices of white bread. We used home-baked today; if your bread is especially soft, you might want to use an extra slice.
salt to taste
If you’re using a meat grinder (also known as a food grinder), set it up with a coarse disk on it. If you’re using a food processor, a regular metal blade is what you want. If you have neither, this can absolutely be done by hand with just a knife, but expect it to take quite some time, and that’s really just a last resort.
Heat schmaltz in a frying pan over medium heat. Add chicken livers without draining. Cook and stir over medium heat until the livers are firm, around 5 minutes. Cut into one of the livers and make sure most or all of the pink color is gone. If not, cook a couple more minutes and test again until they’re cooked through. A tiny bit of pink is okay, but if the livers aren’t firm, they’ll end up soupy once they’re ground up.
Remove the livers from the heat and place all the ingredients near the grinder or food processor.
With a slotted spoon, remove the livers from the schmaltz and run through the grinder or pulse in the food processor until coarsely chopped.
Put the bread slices into the schmaltz to soak it up while you grind the onions and eggs.
Next, grind the rest of the items in this order: onions, eggs, soaked bread.
Mix everything together. Test the texture and salt to taste. I usually don’t need much salt, if any. Some people like it saltier. Remember that the livers will firm up in the fridge, so you want the texture to be a little thinner and looser than you’re hoping they’ll be when they’re cold. If the livers are too soft for your taste, add more bread. If they’re too dry, add a little schmaltz.
<img class="alignnone size-large wp-image-6140" src="http://www.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-640×640.jpg" alt="Jar of chopped liver" width="640" height="640" srcset="http://www.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-640×640.jpg 640w, http://www.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-150×150.jpg 150w, http://www.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-300×300.jpg 300w, http://www.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-768×768.jpg 768w, http://www task management.momfoodproject.com/wp-content/uploads/jar-1200×1200.jpg 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 709px) 85vw, (max-width: 909px) 67vw, (max-width: 984px) 61vw, (max-width: 1362px) 45vw, 600px” />
Note: In a pinch, you can skip the schmaltz and use a good brand of mayo. In this case, cook the livers in a small amount of oil or butter, process all the other ingredients in the grinder or food processor, and then mix the ground ingredients with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of mayo, to taste. The flavor is similar, but not as good as with schmaltz.
Dinners with mom, for real
I’m finally settled in at Mom’s. Well, for now. We moved here in October, and we’re here for good, because it was becoming hard to be of any help from five hundred miles away. We are staying in her guest room, which we renovated first, while our apartment is being renovated. It is SO nice to be near her, both to offer some help, and just to be closer and hang out with her.
I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the four of us: me, Mom, James, and my Uncle Ed, who moved in a couple years ago when my aunt died. I’m trying to make dinners that are homey, interesting, and diverse, so that everyone enjoys them and I have lots of veggies to eat. Tonight’s was a big hit with everyone: Very juicy roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, steamed carrots/squash, and a salad. Even better than the food was the feeling I was nurturing my family and having a good time doing it.
The roast was super-easy. Just rubbed it with olive oil and spices, then put it into a pan in a preheated 450F oven until my probe thermometer said 135F. Pulled it and let it rest a few minutes until it reached a safe 140F before slicing. Very good.
The gravy was also very easy:
1) Slice onions and mushrooms (however many you want) and take out a saute pan that will hold them all — but it doesn’t have to be a saute pan; you can use a big stockpot, even, if you have to
2) Put some butter (anywhere from a tablespoon to several) into the saute pan and heat the pan on medium until the butter melts
3) Add the onions and mushrooms to the butter, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top. If you have it, now’s the time to add a teaspoon of garlic granules or a chopped garlic clove.
4) Let them cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks away, then add just enough chicken stock or water or heavy cream to barely cover, and let it come back to the simmer. If you used chicken stock or water, you’ll have to do step 5. If heavy cream, just continue to heat until it thickens a bit and you’re done.
5) In a little bowl, mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add to the simmering gravy and stir constantly until it returns to the boil. As thick as it is now is as thick as it will be, so if you need to do it again (to make it thicker) or add water/stock (to make it thinner), do that now.
Just a quick round-up of our standard home-made dips.
I just posted this to my cooking group on Facebook and I wanted to save it here. May do posts about these later, and please feel free to point me to your own dip recipes.
I hate store-bought pre-made dips because they have some chemical in them that tastes off/sour to me. I used to do the Lipton onion soup dip thing, but no more. In general, we don’t use packets to make dip any more. We either eat salsa (store-bought or homemade) or I make the dip. They’re easier than I thought they would be before I started doing them. My go-to dips:
French onion: sour cream, dried onions, and something salty/umami: sometimes beef Better Than Buillon, but if we don’t have that, then oyster sauce, or failing that, just a bunch of salt and maybe a pinch of MSG (we’re not sensitive to it).
Green onion: Sour cream, sliced scallions, salt (or seasoned salt), LOTS of black pepper, and something acidic (some combination of lemon juice, vinegar, mayo).
Sour-cream salsa dip: Exactly what it sounds like
Nacho sauce: Make cheese sauce; best to use a screaming orange cheese so it looks right, but any cheese sauce will do. Add some pickled jalapenos that have been diced, along with some of the liquid from the jar.
Bean dip: Fry up some onions in oil/butter/water/whatever. Add refried beans (canned or homemade, pinto/black/whatever) and whatever salsa is on hand, along with whatever cheese is on hand. Heat through and serve.
Spinach dip: 1 cup sour cream; 1 cup mayo; 10 ounces spinach, cooked and drained well; 1 bunch green onions, chopped; 2-4 tablespoons dried onions or dried soup vegetables; salt and pepper to taste; 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (optional).
Buttermilk pancakes and a brief report on day 6.
Just a quicky today.
Breakfast was my basic buttermilk pancakes (recipe below) and a ham-and-green-onion frittata.
Lunch was the leftover rice from the day before and some of our farmer’s market bounty: strawberries and donut peaches.
Dinner was a fancy restaurant with a friend, so basically, I’m not doing all that well in my resolve not to spend much in restaurants this month. Oh, well.
Money spent on groceries: $16.25 (project total $55.86)
Money spent in restaurants: $55 (project total $92.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of:
Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops