Why make “Chopped Chicken Liver?” Because it is a traditional food often served at Jewish holidays including Passover. This holiday is celebrated with a special dinner and it will soon be here. Plus, my recipe for “Chopped Chicken Liver” is delicious. Other than the high cholesterol content, chicken livers are very nutritious; rich in iron and many vitamins.
Can you see what is wrong with this photo? For a Passover dinner, I wouldn’t bring this dish with toast. Traditionally, Chopped Chicken Liver is served with crackers and for Passover, these should be unleavened crackers or Matzo. But this dish is really served all the year especially at important holidays and buffets. It is a favorite dish in my husband’s family.
When my husband was growing up (many years ago), his mother purchased whole chickens. She’d freeze the chicken livers, giblets and other organ meats, each separately. Then she took the skin with fat (if the chicken wasn’t being used for a fried dish) and cooked the skin down on the stove until it was crispy thus rendering out the chicken fat. The crispy skin was called cracklings and my husband says he loved them. The rendered chicken fat was called schmaltz. When my husband’s mother saved enough chicken livers, she’d make “Chopped Chicken Liver” using the schmaltz or chicken fat in the recipe. My husband says he also loved this dish, he still does!
I was given a Jewish cookbook from my mother-in-law when we first married. It is my go-to cookbook regarding Jewish holidays and has a relatively simple recipe for “Chopped Chicken Liver.” It is so simple that I thought I must be doing something wrong. But my husband says my rendition of the recipe is just fine.
I was curious about the origins of this dish in Jewish cooking The dish seems to be associated with Eastern European or Ashkenazi ancestry. From what I gather, the Jewish people originally ate goose in the Middle Ages. Since this population was often poor they ate all the parts of this fowl, including the liver, not wanting to waste anything. And, this dish originally was made (and still is) with the rendered fat of a goose. So this dish came with immigrants through Ellis Island as well as other immigrants such as my in-laws who came through Philadelphia in the 1800’s to Milwaukee. Jewish delis on the East coast often serve “Chopped Chicken Liver.”
Popular Dish in the South
In a totally different context, Fried Chicken Livers are a fairly popular food item in the South. They show up on restaurant menus including the fast food chains of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Popeyes Louisiana Chicken. Often you will find them at small deli counters in a local filling station convenience stores. When we eat at one of these establishments, guess what my husband often orders.
I learned to like this food item back in food service days. We served chicken livers on our cafeteria menu. To add insult to injury, the livers breaded (with seasoned flour) and baked with bacon grease adding alot of saturated fat. Garlic powder was added and we served the dish with mushrooms. The chicken livers were very tasty–sort of addictive!
Nutritional Value of Chicken Livers
But with one serving having all the cholesterol you need for several days, it is best to eat chicken livers only once in a while. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. And 2 oz of simmered chicken livers contain 316 mg cholesterol. Our portions on the cafeteria line were probably more like 4 oz per serving.
On the positive side, chicken livers are rich in protein, Vitamin B12, folic acid, Vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, iron, selenium. They have quite few a nutritional benefits so I think it is okay to indulge once in a while.
Making the Recipe with 6 Ingredients
To make my recipe, you need only 6 ingredients: chicken livers, eggs, a white sweet onion, butter, salt and pepper. So simple for something that tastes so good.
To truly make an authentic version of “Chopped Chicken Liver” you use the rendered fat of the chicken (schmaltz) to caramelize the onions. Additional chicken fat is added when the cooked livers, onions and eggs are chopped. I make a modified version and use either butter, margarine or vegetable oil in the recipe. (Avoid butter for a Kosher version.) I like to use sweet, white onions and cook them slowly in the butter or oil.
After about 10 minutes, they begin to brown.
The chicken livers need to be drained, with small pieces of yellow fat and connective tissue removed.
These are added to the onions and cooked about 3 minutes on each side. No more than 5 to 6 minutes total time. Turn the livers and stir occasionally. If you over-cook the chicken livers, they will be dry. It is okay if the center of the chicken liver is slightly pink.
Meanwhile, I hard boil 2 eggs (and boil 2 additional eggs for garnish). The method I use to cook hard boil eggs is to add the eggs to cold water to cover, bring to a boil on the stove and then reduce the heat so the eggs just simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour off the hot water and add cold water to stop the cooking.
Next, chop everything. I added the chicken livers and onions to a food processor. Pulse only two or three short times. Then I added 2 peeled and coarsely chopped hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper. Pulse only a couple of additional times. If you want a courser dish, chop everything by hand.
Line a small round bowl with plastic wrap. Transfer the chopped chicken livers to the bowl. Cover and chill.
When ready to serve, invert the chilled chopped chicken livers onto a serving plate lined with lettuce. Decorate with additional hard boiled eggs, parsley and I added cherry tomatoes for accent. Serve with crackers and/or Matzo.
The first time I made this dish, I was just really guessing about what to do. Now I have the recipe adjusted to my preferences and preparing it goes smoothly. It is a surprisingly easy recipe and very, very tasty. Now both my husband and I love it!
Chopped Chicken Liver
- 1 lb chicken livers
- 4 eggs (2 for the chopped liver and 2 for garnish)
- 2 Tbsp butter, margarine or oil
- 1 large white onion, chopped (2 cups chopped)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- chopped lettuce, parsley and cherry tomatoes for garnish
- Matzo or other crackers
Method and Steps:
- Rinse the chicken livers, and remove any yellow fat and connective tissue. Drain and set aside.
- To make hard boiled eggs: add 4 eggs to small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil on the stove. Turn heat down and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from stove, pour off hot water and fill pot with cold water. When cool, remove egg shells. Coarsely chop 2 eggs. Leave the one egg quartered and one additional egg chopped for garnish. Set eggs aside.
- Heat butter in large skillet. Add chopped onions. Reduce heat to medium, cook and stir for 10 minutes until pieces of the onions begin to brown.
- Add the chicken livers, cook on each side about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not overcook. Chicken livers may be slightly pink in the center.
- Transfer chicken livers and onions to food processor bowl. Pulse only two or three times.
- Add the 2 chopped eggs, salt and pepper. Pulse about 2 additional times.
- Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Transfer the chopped chicken livers to the bowl and cover bowl. Chill in refrigerator.
- When ready to serve, line serving platter with chopped lettuce. Uncover, invert the chopped chicken liver onto the plate and remove the plastic wrap. Garnish with 2 remaining quartered and chopped hard boiled eggs, parsley and cherry tomatoes.
- Serve with Matzo or other crackers.
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