Chopped Liver & Onions: Mme. Maman

French Fridays with Dorie

Chopped Liver and Onions

Despite having a rather simple ingredient list I would have to imagine that chopped liver and onions is one of those emotionally connected dishes that will not only taste significantly different depending on who is making it, but also depending on who is eating it. Even the most subtle seasoning variances will have wildly different reactions on the palette correlating to early associations of the eater. And by this I mean, “because this doesn’t tastes like how my grandmother made it, I don’t like it as much.”

Well, perhaps not that extreme but you get the idea.

I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that everyone’s first bit of chopped liver and onions probably tasted exactly the same. Maybe a bit muddy despite the onions. Newbie to chopped liver taste buds are much too busy frantically trying to decide if that first spoonful tastes like the liver we remember forced on us as children to pick up on any nuance of variation a change of seasoning or preparation will impart. Even after its mixed with the universally beloved appeal of fried onions our panic of the moment isn’t going let us be open to the secondary flavors.

We just want to know if we are going to gag or not.

With time and through repeated exposures we begin to trust that we are not going to gag while trying to eat it and we can slowly come to understand that liver and onions prepared this way has little resemblance the frightful scraps of liver our parents may have attempted to force feed us as children.

“Eat your liver, its good for you!”

It never really mattered how good that piece of fried organ meat on my plate was for me I wasn’t going to eat it. And if I was truly forced to eat it under the threat of not being able to watch television that night I would eat it in such a manner as it would never actually have to touch my tongue. By cutting it up in small pieces you can get it all down by swallowing them whole with the assistance of a large glass of water — as if they were pills or vitamins.

“Oh honey, don’t do that.”

Her admonition would always be too late as I’d have my “pills” swallowed faster than you could say “Neely O’hara”. Threatening to cut off my tv privileges would always get the desired response. You could make me eat it, but you couldn’t force me to taste it.

Chopped Liver and Onions

Once you trust that liver when cooked as it is here, mixed with copious amounts of deliciously fried onions and a dusting of well chosen seasonings isn’t going to have you retching, you can allow yourself the luxury of settling in on its secondary characteristics. That is, those attributes that while subtle, seem to make all the difference in the world to a chopped liver and onions aficionado.

 Is the hard-boiled egg mixed in or do you prefer it only on top (or on the side)? Gribenes? What about thyme leaves? Does the chopped liver and onions you were first exposed to make use of schmaltz or did your grandmother make it with a dollop or two of mayo? How finely is it chopped? Do you prefer it flavored with madeira wine?

I’m guessing that if you have eaten a lot of chopped liver and onions in your lifetime then these things really do make a difference to you. You are like the many friends I’ve quizzed on this dish since seeing it in our French Friday’s with Dorie lineup who have an emotional connection to these small little details of seemingly great import.

I don’t.

Whats more I am guessing at all of this as truthfully, I don’t know much of anything about this dish at all. Except for the simple fact that despite my complete childhood distaste for liver, I really do like it prepared this way now.Chopped Liver and Onions

Chopped Liver and Onions by Mme. Maman

When you think of it, if you can’t recall ever having eaten chopped chicken liver before it makes it quite difficult to have any kind of emotional connection to how it should be prepared, right? This leaves me then completely agnostic to Dorie’s version here, which was lovely.  I not have had it prepared any other way but I now know that this is how I like it now. No, THIS is how it SHOULD be prepared.

Dorie names the recipe after her friend Sonia Maman and not after her grandmother as you might have expected given its title. This was a huge relief to me when I first read this  because I was imagining that while it would  be one thing to admit not liking Dorie’s recipe but another thing entirely to publically diss her grandmother’s!

Luckily all worry was for naught and I found myself to be quite a fan of this dish. She has it featured in the appetizer section of her  book  as it is traditionally not the main course (“what am I? Chopped liver?) but I have to agree with Dorie’s husband that it makes for one incredible sandwich filling. Give this one a try. You might just like it. I know this much, you won’t gag.

Chopped Liver and Onions

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Chopped Liver and Onions

Dorie's recipe calls for ""quatre épices" which, surprise, is a spice mix comprised of 4 things: ground pepper (white, black, or both), cloves, nutmeg and ginger. It is used mainly in France but also a lot in Middle Eastern dishes. Mix up a small bit in a jar using 4 parts white pepper to 1 part of the remaining ingredients.

This is what you will need:

  • 1/2 cup peanut oil (or other high-heat oil, like grapeseed)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound chicken livers, veins and any fat or green spots removed, halved and patted dry
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon quatre-epices or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (optional)
  • 1-2 hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped (optional)
  • Chicken fat or mayonnaise, for finishing (optional)

This is how you make it:

  1. Pour the oil into a large skillet and put the skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring, until they're well-browned. Season with salt and pepper, stir again, and take the skillet off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a strainer set over a heatproof bowl, leaving whatever oil drips through the slots in the skillet.
  2. Return the oil that's drained from the onions to the skillet and put the skillet back over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken livers and cook, nudging them occasionally to make sure they're not sticking to the skillet, until browned, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and turn the livers over to cook until brown on the other side, 1 to 2 minutes more, just until rosy in the middle. With a slotted spoon, transfer the livers to a cutting board; reserve the oil.
  3. Let the livers cool for about 5 minutes. Either coarsely chop them or cut them into small pieces.
  4. Scrape the onions into a bowl, add the chopped liver, and stir with a fork to mix. Taste for salt and pepper - the liver should be generously seasoned. Add the quatre-epices or allspice, if you're using it, and, if you'd like, the hard-boiled eggs. If the mixture seems dry, you can add a little more oil from the skillet, some chicken fat, if you've got it, or a tad of mayonnaise, which is what my husband likes in his chopped liver.
  5. Pack the chopped liver into a container or a small terrine, cover well, and chill for a few hours before serving.
http://www.sisboomblog.com/2013/12/chopped-liver-onions/

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This chopped liver and onions dish was an assignment for French Friday’s with Dorie, a cooking group working its way through Dorie Greenspan’s culinary tome “Around My French Table”. We generally avoid including the recipes in our posts. However, wherever there has been a significant adaptation by me or where the recipe has already been publicly posted by Ms. Greenspan or her publishers or by hundreds of other bloggers, or it is, in fact, not much of a recipe at all, I will either include it here (adapted) or provide a direct link to it. Please feel free to contact me via the link provided on my page if you need any assistance finding a French Friday with Dorie Recipe. You should buy the book though.

It will change your life as it has mine.

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. Thanks for this beautiful recipe Trevor! I I always thought chopped livers of our childhood must have been an acquired taste as well. But this recipe seems far from it. I love the use of quatre-epices or allspice in there. I can imagine it adds a lot of depth. Must try!

  2. You make the chopped liver look so pretty Trevor. Now THAT’s quite the feat in itself!

  3. Since my father grew up on a farm (and his mother always had tons of chickens), liver and onions would make their way onto our dinner table far too many times. I was not allowed to leave the table until I ate my full portion. Lukewarm/ cold liver and onions is not pleasing to a six year old’s tastes. I am still not convinced liver can elicit any response other than gagging. Sorry, Trevor. I just will never be sophisticated enough to appreciate this one. My inner 6 year old has won this battle.

    Your presentation is lovely and I am impressed that you were able to come to peace with your liver demons.

    • You look so much older than six! Wow. My take on this is that it is a rather rustic dish since the chicken livers are the discarded parts usually. Poor food. My liver demons! Ha!

  4. I was never given liver as a child and have therefore no associations with it at all. That said, I am not a huge fan of the more metallic organ meats, though I am quite fond of some offal. Who am I kidding? I’ll eat anything. Poppa Trix however, will inhale liver and onions, kidneys on toast, tripe – he loves it all. He says it’s the Eastern European in him. But I believe I would like liver this way, and you DID make it look appetizing, which is more than half the battle as far as I’m concerned.

  5. I love chopped liver. My grandmother never made it, but it was always included at our Saturday brunch spreads. I have never tried making it, either. This may have to change!!

  6. I’ve always enjoyed liver pate…but not the fried liver of my childhood. Thank goodness this reminded me of the former, not the latter. Wish I had thought of your technique when I was younger :)

  7. Your post backs up my theory that one of the reasons that I like liver today is because it was not forced on me as a child. In fact, though I’ve eaten liver quite often as an adult, this was the first time I have ever made or eaten the dreaded chopped liver. Who knew it could be so good?

  8. I did liver food pills too! My mother would say, “Chew it this time.” I knew if I did I would barf.

    I would love this with the four spices. Well done on the photos.

  9. I never ate liver until I first had chopped liver as an adult. But I’m not biased towards my first experience. I’ll eat chopped any way, smooth/chunky, French spices or not, eggs or no eggs, it’s all good! If it were healthier, I’d eat it all the time.

  10. Lovely looking chopped liver! Love the look of the chopped eggs on top. It was so hard to make this FFwD look good, but your dish is delicious looking! :)

  11. Trevor! Very entertaining post! As children we were never tortured by liver (be it chicken or pig); asians devour everything (almost)!! Delish in herbal soups!!

  12. Lovely presentation, Trevor and a wonderful post. We truly enjoyed this and the recipe flavor is
    just the way we like it. Have a wonderful weekend.

  13. Your photos are off the charts. Given the subject- extra credit points as well. Lovely post as usual. My memories of liver however all focused on the liverwurst and mustard sandwiches I enjoyed each day in my tin old school lunchbox. Evidently as you can see from our blog post, Nana saved the other stuff for happy hour along with martinis…….:)

  14. I liked this one too. Though I guess that mousse we made earlier (that was truly awful in my opinion) has had a lasting impact on our fellows. I should have dressed mine up more, but I loved the spices, and want to figure out how to use them again. (full disclosure, I grew up having liver and onions as a “treat”, and my mother’s version was delicious – though don’t try convincing my brother Clark about that!). Yours look delicious with the chopped eggs on top!!

  15. I’m a big fan of chopped liver. I even liked liver and onions as a kid. Duck liver. Goose liver. Who knows what else. Maybe with a little Chianti! GREG

  16. My mother never made me eat anything I didn’t want to eat. She was a meat-and-potatoes Iowa cook but I don’t recall her ever making liver and onions for dinner. (Thank you, Mom) And, a paté of any kind, just wasn’t on her midwestern radar screen. But, at 40, as you read in my Post, I met the Jewish culture head on and chopped chicken liver was part of life. As was schmalz. Michael always ate my portion and I shared willingly. I agree with you, Trevor, Mme. Maman’s recipe was simple-to-make and tasty. I just don’t know if I could eat a full-on sandwich. Your photos actually made a very disgusting food color look appetizing. The haze effect is magical.

  17. Yes, I am Adri the Picky Eater, however before I was APE (abbreviations are commonplace with me) I was Adri the kid who ate everything, even liver and kidneys. But then, somewhere in grammar chool I learned that liver , which I enjoyed with my mom, and kidneys, which I enjoyed with my dad, were “organs.” And that was it. No one quite ever figured out why, but also fish was soon off this little kid’s list. My dad, quite exasperated one night at dinner remarked “Adri you are eating a steak. A steak is a muscle.” Before I could say, “No thank you Daddy.” I saw the look on his face. He knew he’d ventured a step too far, He was now the owner of the only vegetarian on the block – this was the late fifties, and I was an oddity. Over time I became less picky, but some foods never did return to the repertoire, liver among them. However, I congratulate you on a darn good try! This really is a beautifully written post – Dorie and Mme. Maman would be proud.

  18. I don’t know anyone who could have photographed chopped liver better than you, Trevor! Really lovely photos! Glad you enjoyed this one…it was definitely a hit with my family too! I do plan on serving it at my Christmas get-together this weekend! Enjoy your week!

  19. Usually I can convince Kevin that my Friday experiments are at least worth a try. Not this one. He was adamant on the subject. So, I’ll try this some time when I’m visiting my parents. I learned my love of liver from them. Perhaps I’ll show Kevin your photograph of this dish. It’s lovely enough that it might change his mind.

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