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ibstubro's avatar

Have you ever eaten (or even seen for sale), chopped liver?

Asked by ibstubro (12471 points ) June 11th, 2014

I wonder where the expression, “What am I, chopped liver?” comes from.

I understand that chopped liver would be an unappealing food, but is it something stores used to offer?

I know that Underwood once offered deviled ham and tongue, perhaps chopped liver just fell out of favor before my time?

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38 Answers

dxs's avatar

What is this, cannibalism?!

gailcalled's avatar

it is a traditional dish, made from chicken livers, found in all Jewish households, or used to be, before people discovered what the liver actually does.

My paternal grandmother made it all the time; even my mother, the non-cook, made it. it was the Jewish version of paté.

You dice an onion and saute it in a frying pan with some melted chicken fat (schmaltz) until translucent or, according to taste, crispy. Then you add the chicken livers and sauté them as well until cooked. Then you can add a few more things like chopped hard-boiled eggs and parsley and put through a food mill to turn into a fine spread, or if you are my mother, serve as is on a cracker with a cornichon or two.

For the fine tuning, Google “traditional chopped liver.”

Or you can just eat the crispy, fried onion bits by themselves.

zenvelo's avatar

What do you think liverwurst is made from? Or pate?

And, you’ve never had tongue? My mom used to cook tongue about once a month, it’s delicious with a good mustard. And the next day you can have tongue sandwiches!

elbanditoroso's avatar

All the time. My grandmother z“l was a woman from the old country and made it for us all the time. It is/was a very traditional thing to have on the table on all jewish holidays (except Yom Kippur).

Sadly, when she died, so did the recipe.

ibstubro's avatar

Critter liver, @dxs

GA @gailcalled! Sounds really good.

I guessed that liverwurst and pate was made from pureed cooked liver, @zenvelo. It’s the chopped that threw me. Of course I’ve had tongue. It’s the peeling off the tastebuds that’s the unpleasant part of cooking them.

Damn, that’s a shame, @elbanditoroso. Ever tried to re-create it?

elbanditoroso's avatar

My mother tried it several times, but she’s not her mother :-) I’m not that much of a cook, so I haven’t tried.

talljasperman's avatar

I a restaurant I ordered breaded liver… I could only eat two little bites. The rest I took home and kept in the fridge until I tossed it in the trash. It was o.k. just to strong and stringy.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@talljasperman – if it was stringy, it was a filet – it wasn’t chopped. Real chopped liver has the consistency of creamy peanut butter or spreadable cheese.

gailcalled's avatar

@elbanditoroso: All you need is a good, simple traditional recipe and some rendered chicken fat. My mother is probably your mother and she could make it.

Here’s one. Omit the garlic and the nutmeg and use the schmaltz rather than margerine (a desecration).

Tropical_Willie's avatar

My dad and I would make chicken livers and have them while watching Pro Football. Great on Club crackers!

talljasperman's avatar

@elbanditoroso I learn something new each day.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

The real trick is learning to make a white gravy (Bechamel Sauce) for your chicken livers and gizzards and hearts and whatnot;
And
A tasty beef gravy (dark) for the beef livers! Yummy yum yum. So much Iron!

GloPro's avatar

I buy it for my dog because it’s pretty darn cheap.

Coloma's avatar

Ew…liver and tongue, I’m done. haha

@GloPro Yeah, but…the liver is the organ that absorbs all the toxins and medications an animal has in it’s body. God only knows what’s in beef liver or chciken liver from factory farms these days. I wouldn’t feed liver more than once in awhile if you ask me, but, of course you didn’t. lol

El_Cadejo's avatar

I’ve had chicken and cow liver many times, I love it. Then again I love tongue and pigs head too so maybe I’m not the best judge.

Hearts are really good too. As an added bonus you gain the courage of the beast you consumed :P

Coloma's avatar

@El_Cadejo Do you serve them with Fava beans a nice Chianti too. lol

Pachy's avatar

I grew up on the stuff and love it still, though it’s VERY high in cholesterol. As to where the expression comes from, I found this reference via Google:

As far as I know, the origins of the phrase are not Yiddish; I believe the phrase was originally coined in America. Being that chopped liver was always considered a side dish and not a main course, the phrase is used to express hurt and amazement when a person feels he has been overlooked and treated just like a “side dish”.

elbanditoroso's avatar

It also sounds better than “what am I, steamed broccoli?”

ibstubro's avatar

I rather like, “what am I, steamed broccoli?”, @elbanditoroso. “What am I, creamed corn?” lol

elbanditoroso's avatar

@ibstubro – I expect you to use it at every available opportunity, in such a way that it becomes an internet meme and gains common use.

Just think, if that happens, we will be famous!!!

gailcalled's avatar

@ibstubro: There are, sadly, no new ideas. See this old but famous New Yorker cartoon

“It’s brocolli, dear.”

“I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.”

Pachy's avatar

@gailcalled, that’s one of my all-time favorite caroons!!!

Kardamom's avatar

I’ve never eaten chopped liver before, but there’s quite a few Jewish deli’s in our area and they all serve it.

You can find chopped liver at any one of These Places

ibstubro's avatar

What is chopped liver, @Kardamom? A product or an end product? Ingredient or dish? Can you buy liver that is chopped, or are they referring to Braunschweiger?

If you link me to vegetarian Braunschweiger I’m going to shoot liquid out of both my nostrils.

gailcalled's avatar

@ibstubro: It’s a spread, man. Think of chopped liver as the Jewish peanut butter.

ibstubro's avatar

I guess I didn’t know what was not to like, @gailcalled. I loved Braunschweiger as a kid, and the canned liver was one of the best products Underwood used to put out. Apparently “chopped” put me off. I was thinking more like creamed chipped beef (which I liked as a carnivore.)

gailcalled's avatar

How about food-milled liver? (since we are allowed to make any noun into a verb these days)

Kardamom's avatar

@ibstubro It’s a dish, it is actually chopped cooked chicken livers, served cold as a spread. It’s kind of like tuna salad. It can be served on crackers or as a filling for a sandwich or plopped onto a leaf of lettuce. Most of the recipes I’ve read have both onions and had boiled eggs in it, such as This Recipe

This is what it Looks Like

Don’t mock the mock chopped liver. Read This you’ll see why. In a blind contest of chopped liver dishes from different places, the mock liver came in third over 2 Jewish delis.

downtide's avatar

My mum used to cook liver and onions regularly when I was a kid. It was cheap and I liked it.

ibstubro's avatar

Okay.

Is the liver milled. Pureed?

Or is it chopped. Cut into ever smaller chunks with a knife?

THAT is the question.

gailcalled's avatar

Chicken livers are small enough to cook without chopping. When the entire shegang (liver and onions) is done, put through a food mill (the old-fashioned way), or put into a food processor (the new-fangled way.)

Read any of the traditional recipes for chopped liver, as we mentioned above.

downtide's avatar

@ibstubro when my mum cooked it she chopped it into strips with a knife. Fairly large strips, maybe ½” wide. But this would be lamb/sheep liver, not chicken livers.

gailcalled's avatar

edit; That adorable spell-check changed “shebang” into “shegang,” Chinese chopped liver, i suppose.

ibstubro's avatar

Too bad there’s no veggie version recipe included, @Kardamom.

Seems there is debate over chopped versus pureed, @gailcalled.

I always liked liver and onions as a kid, too, @downtide. Or just fried chicken livers.

gailcalled's avatar

@ibstubro: Not in the Jewish cuilinary world. There are, however, varied degrees of pureed-ness (you should forgive the neologism).

Kardamom's avatar

Most of the chopped liver I’ve seen in the deli cases look more pureed, and look more like pâté, like it’s been “chopped” in a food processor, but some of the die hards (I read over a lot of recipes researching this question) say that any “real” chopped liver should be chopped by hand and should retain a bit of the chunks.

This is one of the Devices used to chop liver. Here’s another One

Some recipes also call for an old fashioned Meat Grinder or Food Mill

But you can also make chopped liver with a regular kitchen knife, but I think it would take a lot longer and you would get a chunkier, less smooth, product.

Tori Avey is a fairly well known Jewish food writer. Here are 2 recipes, one for regular chopped liver and one for a vegetarian version.

Regular Chopped Liver

Vegetarian Version of Chopped Liver

The consistency of chopped liver varies upon the recipe, the means of chopping, and invidual taste. Here is a fairly Chunky chopped liver while This One is rather smooth. Sometimes people even put chopped liver into a Loaf Pan and turn them out so they have a shape rather than just a blob of spread.

Here’s another Vegetarian version of chopped liver.

And if anybody thinks that being vegetarian is inconsistent with Judaism, Read This or This

Now is anybody hungry? I guess I better put out a spread.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@Kardamom – the real problem I have with Tori Avey’s “vegetarian” chopped liver is that is is pseudofood. It may be good on its own accord, but – if it doesn’t have liver, it isn’t chopped liver – vegetarian or not.

So call it onion and nut spread if you want, but it’s rather hard to make chopped liver without a liver.

ibstubro's avatar

I think “Mock Chopped Liver” is the key, and employed by the first listed Veggie recipe poster?

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