Each year my congregation has a community seder at Passover. About 80 people attend. We hire a caterer for the main course, but members are assigned traditional foods, such as the haroset or the matzoh balls to put in the soup. This year they requested that I make my famous chopped liver, using my mother’s age-old recipe. But they also asked if I could possibly make a “mock” chopped liver for the vegetarians among us, or those who don’t like liver in any form.
Now I’m not sure why anyone would mock chopped liver. It is a high fat food of the gods, which should be treated with utmost respect. And, I am not going to include the recipe for chopped liver as if it were healthy and low fat, although I’ll tell you the secret formula at the end of this post. Just so you know the difference:
The chopped liver is to the left – the mock is to the right
But what would mock chopped liver consist of? I decided it should be essentially like chopped liver – braised onions lending their caramelized sweetness to the same mix of hard boiled eggs, chicken-flavor broth crystals and …what? I decided to use mushrooms in place of the chicken livers, in the exact same proportion as the chopped liver.
The recipe is:
For each pound of mushrooms, sliced (I used ordinary button mushrooms) use
1 hard boiled egg
1 fairly large onion, sliced vertically
1 Tablespoon canola oil
Chicken-style (vegetarian) soup mix or bullion cubes (crushed) to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions until golden brown and somewhat caramelized. Remove to a bowl. Add mushrooms to the same pan. Sauté until soft and somewhat browned. Put onions, mushrooms, and egg through a food grinder. If you use a food processor instead of a grinder, pulse so that the mixture is coarse. Add soup mix to taste, mixing it in thoroughly. Makes 6 servings at 3 grams of fat/serving. I actually thought the mock chopped liver, which is actually a mushroom pate, tasted better than the real thing – oh sacrilege! And I plan to make it again just to eat with crackers.
I actually think I could make this without any oil – just sauté the ingredients in a non-stick pan coated with cooking spray, adding hot water periodically to “steam fry” the onions and mushrooms. This is how I usually cook onions – without oil. You get the same rich caramelized taste. Then the mock chopped liver would only be about 1 gram of fat/serving.
But wait, I said there was an adventure. I made the mock chopped liver the day of the seder (the chopped liver had been made 2 days before). This meant I got up early and sautéed 6 onions and six pounds of mushrooms. This took several hours, because while I have a very large sauté pan, I still had to cook them in several batches. I confess I was working with some haste, so that I would have time to take a nice hot shower before driving to the seder location. I ground the mushrooms, eggs, and onions into the large metal bowl of my mixer. The bowl was very full. I then set the bowl aside while removing the grinder from the mixer so I could use it to mix the seasoning into the mock chopped liver. In my haste, I bumped the full bowl and it crashed to the hard kitchen floor. Miraculously, it landed upright, with most of the food in it. But the impact shot some of the contents out of the bowl …
Onto the floor
(I had already cleaned it off the wall, which was coated)
Onto the ceiling
On the wall above the refrigerator, which was across the room.
There was mushroom mix on cabinets, walls, random dishes, and other locations that reveal themselves daily. I hastily cleaned and headed for the hot shower. I still haven’t figured out how to get it off the wall above the refrigerator.
So what am I – chopped liver?
There is no way you can make chopped liver low fat (I’ve tried), so you should make it once a year, eat it and enjoy, and give the leftovers to deserving people so it doesn’t tempt you from the refrigerator.
The reason it isn’t low fat is not only because it is made with chicken livers and eggs, but because the onions and livers are cooked in Chicken Fat! I render my own chicken fat. To render chicken fat (an ancient art practiced by my mother and grandmother) remove all the skin and fat from a large raw chicken. (Use the naked chicken for something else.) The skin and fat from one chicken makes enough fat for about 3-4 pounds of liver. Place the skin and fat into a large sauté pan, and cook slowly over a medium low heat for several hours until there is golden liquid fat in the pan, and crisp bits of skin, known as gribenes. Wikipedia says that gribenes are crisp chicken or goose skin cracklings somewhat similar to pork rinds. Gribenes are a byproduct of schmaltz (the Yiddish term for chicken fat) preparation.
When I was young, my mother would fish these bits of skin out of the pan onto a paper towel to drain, and then sprinkle the hot gribenes with salt for anxious children to grab as snacks. My advice is to nibble one…and then speedily put them in the garbage or feed them to your dogs, or whatever it takes to get the addictive little bits out of the house. I rendered enough chicken fat to freeze some for next year.
Once you have the chicken fat, follow the same proportions and procedure as for the mock chopped liver, substituting the liver for the mushrooms. I usually use the same pan I rendered the fat in, and cook it all in one day.