Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Nana's chopped chicken liver

As a young child I remember my Nana B serving this appetizer when she had company, often together with pickled herrings and sour cream.

I know you can’t but help but picture us in the kitchen, preparing this together, my Nana letting me peel the hard boiled eggs and chop them up while she deglazed the pan. My grandma passing down the fabulous recipes of her Jewish heritage whilst telling the stories her grandparents from the Old Continent had told her.

Well, that is the wrong Nana you are picturing. My Nana did not cook, ever, not as far as I can remember. I don’t even think she knew how to hard boil the eggs required for the recipe.
The closest she would come to deglazing the pan as indicated in the recipe was getting out a bottle from the liquor cabinet to prepare her daily pre-dinner scotch on the rocks.

She was not maternal, not the kind of grandma on whose bosom you rested your head when you needed comfort. She had a sharp tongue and a quick temper. She smoked, she drank and she gambled pretty much till the end. She could be stingy with many, but never with the backgammon board.

She was a great story teller, that much is true. She was well-travelled and well-read - her study table was always stacked high with books, papers and dictionaries alongside an ashtray filled with lipstick stained cigarettes - and was curious about everything. She played the piano, loved music and collected art. She had a more active social life when she was 90 than I did when I was 20. She played tennis well into her eighties, donning white mini skirts and pompoms on her socks without a second thought. She spent her winters in Florida lunching "with the girls", her octagenarian friends.

She hurt her head after falling while dancing at a party and never recovered. I think she was pretty ready to go. Before the fall she often said to me: "My friends are all dead or sick. My body is starting to fall apart. I have had a full life, I did pretty much anything a gal can do. I’m bored." It frustrated her that she couldn’t drive as well as she used to or that she needed her stick to get out of her armchair because she was a fiercely independent woman. Despite marrying twice, she spent most of her life on her own, doing things exactly the way she wanted, when she wanted. And that was that, thank you very much.

She may have not been an apron-wearing, pie-baking kind of grandmother, but we had a grand time together, she and I, and I will always miss her dry sense of humor and enthusiasm for everything that surrounded her.

I was pretty excited when I found a tray of chicken livers and hearts being sold at the meat counter. When I was a kid I remember they always sold those not so noble parts inside the chicken when you bought one. Nowadays you just don't see them as much anymore. I immediately bought some and when I found this recipe by Ina Garten, I just couldn’t resist. So here’s to you Nana B.

1 pound chicken livers
about 3 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
¼ cup Port, Madeira or Sherry wine
2 eggs, hardboiled
1/8 cup minced parsley
1 tsp thyme (I only had dried thymebut fresh is better)
salt to taste
black pepper to taste

Hard boil the eggs, let cool, peel and chop.
Sauté the livers in 1 tbsp butter over pretty high heat, until just pink inside. Be careful, if you overcook them they will dry out. Put into a large bowl without draining the butter.
Using the same pan, sauté the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until browned. Add the sweet wine and deglaze the pan. Pour onions and sauce over the livers.
Add the chopped eggs, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and mix. Process in a  food processor until coarsely chopped. Season to taste and store in fridge until ready to serve on crackers or with carrots and celery. I did both.


  1. This recipe is so good...Mouthwatering Dear..


  2. Oh That sounds like a grand grand mother! I'm sure you had a lot of fun with her.
    I had a great uncle like that. He always did what he wanted and loved his life.

    On a different note that chopped liver crouton looks divine!

    1. I did! And yes, the crouton was pretty darn good.

  3. Looks like a great recipe! Thanks for posting!

  4. You know...I so, so, so want to like chicken liver...but I automatically gag with livers! I always thought it was so sophisticated to be able to smear liver into a cracker or toast and enjoy it with a glass of wine...

    1. Listen, nobody can like everything, even an adventurous enthusiastic eater like you!

  5. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful, spirited person and just the sort of person that would be so fun to hang out with! I bet she is smiling at this post now (perhaps having a cigarette and a drink! ;) ).

    1. And a bit of crouton with liver pate

    2. That is a nice thought, thanks Lorraine and Sami

  6. I love chicken livers and was looking for a recipe other than the one I had been using; your nana sounds like such a fun person!

    1. WOuld love to hear your recipe. This is the first I have made.

  7. What an interesting tale about your Nana. It's funny in retrospect, I had one not so maternal grandmother too (although she did have 7 children!) but we just didn't feel that way about her, AND she was not a good cook. Then there was Ruth, and that's another story.
    Sounds like she lived a fiery life and at least she had good taste in food and cocktails. I adore chopped chicken liver, and basically all Jewish food!

    1. My other grandmother was always much more maternal and a good cook. But I have to admit I got pretty lucky with both. Which is nice because I never met any of my grandfathers.

  8. So true, you hardly see chicken livers any more, or organ meats and other 'old timey' cuts in general. I know they're not supposed to be very healthy, but I really like them once in a while. And does it make sense to eat just the breast and thow out the rest of the bird?


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