Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Am I, Chopped Liver?

It's not news that organ meat and other long forgotten animal "parts" have made a trendy resurgence in the last couple years. I often find myself reading or watching chefs wax poetic about the bits and pieces that time and more expensive tastes have left behind.

But what about chicken livers? I know, I know, chopped liver has a bad rap. But I think like so many things in life it just needs a little re-branding. If being cheap can be "thrifty" and using old stuff for new tasks can be "recycling," then can good old chicken liver become pâté?

I wasn't so sure. My mother made wonderful chopped liver that I grew to appreciate when I was old enough to ignore its appearance, but it certainly didn't taste like the slabs of duck and truffle pâté that appeared for special occasions. I liked both, but didn't think of them as kin.

So what's the difference in taste? Well, it turns out that aside from a different fowl the answer is two fold: butter and spices/liquor. And while the high cholesterol in butter and the chicken livers themselves doesn't really stick with my efforts at healthy eating, they prove an amazing source of vitamins, iron, and protein. Personally, I need iron in my diet even if its source isn't "diet" food. I'll make up for it. Oh, and they are super cheap, er, I mean thrifty.

I found this nice NYTimes piece in which Mark Bittman pondered the same question and offers the flavors I'd need to add to Mom's chopped liver. Then, per usual, I did it my own way to cut back on the fat and to adhere to my mantra of using what I have on hand. Here's the recipe:

You Say Chopped Liver, I Say Pâté

1 container chicken livers (check the date-- you need these *fresh*)
1 c. chicken stock/broth
1 small onion
1 1/2 Tablespoons brandy
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice (finally another use for it!)
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
4. Tablespoons unsalted butter
Heavy grind of black pepper
Salt to taste

In a saucepan heat chicken stock or broth. Meanwhile, clean chicken livers. They are gross, but you can do it! Wash in cool water and look to make sure no large purple balls are attached. I'm pretty sure those are gallbladders and you don't want to eat them. Or at least that's what my mother told me.

Once the stock is steaming, slide the chicken livers in. One container usually has about 10-12 livers. Let the chicken livers cook until they are firm to the touch/fork poke. You want them to still be a little pink on the inside and brown on the outside. The cooking liquid will get a little cloudy with particles -- some of this is their fat.

Remove the chicken livers from the stock and set aside to cool. Discard the stock.

Once cooled, place the chicken livers with the roughly chopped onion, the brandy, spices and salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse, adding in the butter, until the mixture becomes a paste.

That's it. But here's the key to this re-branding: do not let anyone see your pâté in this state! Mr. Lemon declared it vomit-like but gamely tried it, then hours later after it had hardened in the fridge could not get enough.

Oh and there's no photo, because even with a new name, this stuff really isn't pretty.

High protein, iron-rich meal for under $2
A delicious dish to incorporate into multiple meals (more on that later)
Tasty new approach to an easy dish

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