Sammy's Roumanian has been schticking it up in that fluorescent-lit basement on the Lower East Side since it was opened by Stan "Sammy" Zimmerman in 1975. You imagine this Jewish steakhouse just sprang into existence, with all the following years' now-faded photos already taped to the wall.
When it comes to the atmosphere and the live music, that's actually almost the case — violinist Ruby Levine, whose regular gig was playing Sammy's, started the first week it opened, and entertained customers until his death in 1998. Sammy has moved on (his son took over), but the music continues, and so does the fun atmosphere, steady pour of ice-cold vodka, and the iconic New York dining experience that is Sammy's.
Of anything eaten at Sammy's, the chicken liver mixed tableside has to be one of the most tasty and memorable. The caramelized onions, strips of turnip, grated radish, chopped onions, gribenes, and the stream of chicken fat poured into the bowl, make for a sweet, salty, full-contact flavor and texture. One of New York's best chopped livers? Hard to say. Most entertaining? You bet. And for these reasons this dish made my list of most memorable meals of 2011.
Click for more of the Most Memorable Meals of 2011.
Sarge's Deli Recipes: Chopped Liver
Rich, savory chopped liver is a traditional Jewish dish that brings back fond food memories for many families. The history of chopped liver goes back to Medieval Germany, where Ashkenazi Jews bred and raised geese as the poultry of choice. The first Jewish chopped liver recipes were actually made from goose liver.
It’s hard to figure out exactly how chopped liver came to be so deeply connected with Eastern European Jewish cuisine. Many have speculated that because Jews were often poor, they ate every part of a chicken in order to be thrifty, including parts like the liver that would otherwise seem unappetizing. It may be that chopped liver was common among German, Polish, or Russian non-Jews at one point, and the recipe was simply adopted by the Jewish community in those countries.
"What Am I, Chopped Liver?
Ever heard the phrase, "What am I, chopped liver?" As far as we know, the origins of that phrase are not Yiddish, but 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."
Side dish or not, chopped liver has been embraced by Jews of all generations as well as other ethnic groups. Hundreds of pounds each week are made in Sarge's Murray Hill kitchen. Want to learn how to make it yourself? Here's the recipe.
Sarge’s Chopped Liver Recipe
- 3 lbs chicken livers*
- Oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 large onions, diced
Place chicken livers in pan coated with oil. Sautée until dry. In another pan, sautée onions until they are caramelized and soft. Once livers are cool, put them in a food processor and chop until smooth, but not pureed. Then add onions into the food processor, and pulsate the mixture until it gets to a consistency you like. You can also use a large wooden bowl and a hand chopper instead of a food processor to avoid pulverizing the livers. Some prefer a chunkier chopped liver, others like it smoother and pate-like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Raw livers, even from a kosher animal, are not inherently kosher. Click here to find more information about broiling a liver to make it kosher.
For an “old-world” taste: Instead of oil, sautée the livers in schmaltz (rendered chicken fat).
For a less greasy dip: Leave out oil, and broil the livers instead of sautéeing them.
For egg-lovers: Add about 6 hard-boiled eggs to the mixture, together with the onions.
For a moister consistency: Add about 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or to taste.
For veggie-lovers: Replace 1 lb. of the liver with 8 oz. of chopped mushrooms, and add 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley.
If you don't have the time to make Chopped Liver yourself, you can always have Sarge's Chopped Liver delivered right to your door. Sarge's offers both local delivery and nationwide delivery of our famous Chopped Liver as well as all of other other traditional Jewish dishes. You can also have Sarge's cater your Passover meal, or any other holiday or event.
It seems like it would be difficult and time consuming to make, but this recipe only takes about 20 minutes. The ingredients are all basic and easy to find, save the one that elevates this version to something really special. This easy recipe requires just a few ingredients:
- Chicken livers
- Olive Oil
- Cognac (ooh! fancy!)
I like to serve it on sliced baguette or crackers (or with matzo for Passover).
However you slice it, this is no forgettable dish of chopped liver.
Check out our Vegetarian Chopped Liver, too! Our super moist Honey Cake is another favorite Jewish holiday recipe!
A Killer Chopped Liver Sandwich in Savannah, Georgia? Yes, Really
One of my dad’s favorite sayings when he’s feeling emotionally ignored is, “What am I, chopped liver?” As in, “What am I, the thing nobody wants?” Liver rarely gets a day in the sun, unless it’s mousse-ified or cooked down into pate, which usually means its somewhat metallic (okay, blood-like) flavor gets buried beneath a healthy dose of herbs, wine, butter, or all three. Chopped liver, on the other hand, is often a harder sell. Especially in the South, where Jewish delis—some of the best places to find the stuff—are few and far between. So, imagine my surprise (and delight did I mention I love liver?) when I walked into chef Mashama Bailey’s newest Savannah restaurant to find a chopped liver sammie on the menu front and center.
The Grey Market is an extension of The Grey, Bailey’s first restaurant, which is located in a dolled-up former Greyhound station just down the street. There, chef created a very-adorable-but-not-to-the-point-of-being-saccharine market/eatery that falls somewhere between New York deli and southern diner, making good on both her NYC roots and Georgia heritage in one spot. You can buy Sour Patch Kids and non-organic dish soap and good wine and local butter, and then you can sit on a cushy diner stool, sip egg creams, and nosh on a perfectly executed chopped liver on rye with a side of crunchy pickle.
What Am I, Chopped Liver?
I mean, HONESTLY. My descendants and I have walked this prairie for generations, WELL before those high-fallutin&mdashquote, unquote&mdash&ldquoMustang Beauties&rdquo came charging onto our turf, uninvited.
And just look at them! Beauties? They flat refuse to keep their hair under control and they never HAVE learned how to wash properly. They&rsquore nothing but a bunch of wild animals, if you ask me!
Yet our supposed &ldquocaretaker&rdquo&mdashthat strange redheaded human woman with the camera&mdashhas all but abandoned us for the equine ninnies. In all my life, I never could have imagined it would come to this.
It&rsquos enough to send a cow like me over the edge. I think I&rsquoll sing about it.
Gloooom, despaaair, and agony on me (groan)
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery (groan)
If it weren&rsquot for bad luck, I&rsquod have no luck at all
Gloooom, despaaair, and agony on me (groan)
All alone in the mooooooooonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then.
(Name that Broadway musical.)
Noooobody knoooows the trouble I&rsquove seeeeeeen&hellip
There. I feel better now. I tell you, there&rsquos nothing like putting your troubles to song to get you out of a black mood. It&rsquos like one great big, emotional burp.
Editor&rsquos Note: Thank you for listening to Idabel&rsquos concerns. She has some issues with insecurity and tends to wear her feelings on her sleeve.
Editor&rsquos Note #2: Thank you, also, for listening to my concerns in yesterday&rsquos post. I could write a huge volume based on the incredible perspective, ideas, and advice you offered about my freaky, whacko phobia. I&rsquom still reading your comments, and will sleep with them under my pillow tonight.
What am I, Chopped Liver?
A sore throat, a runny nose, even a repetetive sneeze will spray me south two stops on the NR and then two Avenues east, past the trendy people in the East Village, to that bastion of restorative medicine: The 2nd Ave. Deli, home of the city’s most mystically curative chicken soup.
I’ve lived here since August. In that time, I’ve gone to the 2nd Ave. Deli three times for three separate bowls of chicken noodle soup which means I’ve had three colds since I moved here. Maybe it’s the germs on the subway or all the people I make out with. In any case, The 2nd Ave. Deli always succeeds in making me feel better (although it costs a pretty penny). Today I decided to be economical and order soup and half a sandwich (as opposed to a whole sandwich).
Which brings us to the title of this post. This post isn’t about soup. It’s about my sandwich. What was on my sandwich? The Jewish foie gras: Chopped Liver.
When I told the waiter what I wanted on my sandwich he smiled. In that smile we communed for a moment. “Ah, chopped liver,” he projected, “You’re a real Jew, aren’t you? Who else would order that? I’m impressed. Shalom! Long live Israel!” (He was a long-winded projector.)
There are some Jewish foods I’ve seen my non-Jewish friends eat. Matzoh ball soup, for example. Bagels, of course. Lox even. Maybe a hamentaschen here and there. But never, never ever ever have I seen a non-Jewish friend eat Chopped Liver. I imagine that given the prospect most of them would go: “Blech!”
Are you going “blech” right now? Why are you grossed out? Is it because it’s liver? Is it because it’s chopped? ARE YOU AN ANTI-SEMITE?
Chopped liver was a simple standard of my childhood. It’d be mounded (as it is in the above picture) at family functions and Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, usually with chopped hard-boiled eggs and raw onions. We’d eat it when we’d go to the deli or the bagel store. That is until my grandmother interceded and told us: “DON’T ORDER CHOPPED LIVER. IT’S AN ORGAN MEAT!”
That’s one of the trigger responses chopped liver has for me now. You say “chopped liver,” I hear my grandmother say: “It’s an organ meat!” Meaning, it’s horrible for you. Don’t eat it.
And I haven’t really eaten it in the latter half of my life. It’s been a while. Until today. Today I ordered chopped liver with my soup. The waiter smiled. Jews nodded in approval.
Then it was brought and I bit in and—blech? Not quite. It just took some getting used to. The chopped liver I remember from my childhood had a sweetness to it, perhaps from carmelized onions that get chopped up with it. Maybe this was low on the onions? The texture here was also unpleasant: it was dense and sludgy. Perhaps it was sophisticated. Perhaps this is what real Jews ate when they came over from Russia or Hungary or wherever it is they came from when they brought chopped liver across the ocean. Shall we defer to Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America”?
Joan Nathan offers little. She talks about chopped liver sculptures at Jewish weddings. Can you imagine being paid to sculpt chopped liver? There’s also a recipe for vegetarian chopped liver, which my grandmother buys religiously from Whole Foods in Boca, and which I made once for a Passover seder (it involves plenty of onions and then green beans and walnuts to act as “liver”). But as to the history of chopped liver, little is written.
Although it’s not that hard to figure out. When you are poor, what do you do? Use every part of the animal. So as not to waste precious chickens, I’m sure converting the liver into something edible and even enjoyable was a necessity. (Much like the pork uterus that we laugh at in my Chinatown video may have been first cooked out of necessity). Necessity is the mother of invention, no? Such is the way with food.
On the way out of the 2nd Ave. Deli, an old Jewish woman stopped me. “It’s a regular slip joint they’re running here,” she said.
I gave her a look that said: “Hmmm?”
“A rip-off,” she continued, “I go in there and ask for half a pound of turkey, some chopped liver, and pastrami and do you know what they want to charge me? $26!”
“Look,” she said, “These are my people. I’m happy to shop here. But c’mon!”
I gave her a look that said: “What are you gonna do?”
She shrugged and said: “I’ll go to Katz’s.”
Tradition keeps Jews on roofs and compels us to pay exorbitant prices to eat foods our ancestors ate out of necessity. It’s a nurture thing. Cultural comfort food. Could we afford to eat chopped liver every day? Of course not. And besides…it’s an organ meat!
Chopped liver &#151 and proud of it, when it comes on rye
Let's talk chopped liver. This quintessentially Jewish dish — Recipe No. 1 in the 614-page "New York Times Jewish Cookbook" — is so slighted, so unloved, so unappreciated that it is doomed forever to be a punch line. "What am I . chopped liver?" one remarks when feeling slighted, unloved or unappreciated.
If you're waiting for me to dis the proletarian paté, forget it. I love chopped liver. Always have.
Many a day, my mother sent me off with chopped liver and sliced tomato on white bread, wrapped in wax paper. The chopped liver was scooped from the yellow-and-red tub of Mrs. Weinberg's, a brand that lives on only in the memory of onetime Jewish schoolboys and the mothers who fed them.
The thing about chopped liver on white bread is that the sandwich doesn't keep its shape a sturdier bread, such as rye, holds up better. No big deal: Mrs. Weinberg's was sweet, oniony, sufficiently lumpy and filling.
Nowadays, chopped liver doesn't make it into too many lunch bags. Safe to say, it has terrible demographics. Kids won't touch the grayish-brown stuff because they think it's gross adults avoid it because the chief ingredients, organ meat and eggs, are full of cholesterol.
When chopped liver does turn up, it's resting on a lettuce leaf as a Passover or Rosh Hashanah appetizer, or surrounded by crackers as an hors d'oeuvre, the Borscht Belt guacamole.
Such a pity, chopped liver's banishment.
"I knew a rabbi who thought chopped liver was the only true Jewish dish," says Joan Nathan, an authority on Jewish cuisine and author of "Jewish Cooking in America."
Nathan says chopped liver goes back hundreds of years, to when European Jewish poultry farmers raised geese. "In order to eat the liver, they had to broil it to get rid of the blood," Nathan says, referring to a key step in koshering meat. "Broiled liver having the consistency of shoe leather, you began seeing sautéed onions and eggs added."
Somewhere along the way, chicken and beef liver were substituted for the goose liver.
You can buy chopped liver at kosher delis and at kosher food markets. Most places use beef liver, which has a longer shelf life than chicken liver, or a combination. Expect to pay from $6.49 to $10 a pound.
Chopped liver is easy enough to make at home — Nathan uses the chicken livers she stashes in the freezer — but you'll need a meat grinder.
The basic recipe calls for chicken or beef liver — chicken liver yields a lighter, creamier result — hard-cooked eggs, onions, salt and pepper and a lubricating fat. Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) is traditional, but vegetable oil is just as good.
Garlic, green pepper and celery are optional ingredients, and some chopped-liver recipes even include mayonnaise, a thought so revolting that it leaves this boy from Queens speechless.
Stick to the basic recipe and listen to Kenneth Butensky, for 34 years the cantor at Congregation Beth Am in Teaneck, N.J.: "You can never put in too much onion."
The 70-year-old tenor, a hearty man, knows his chopped liver and was once in the deli business. His last store was Butensky's kosher delicatessen in Cresskill, N.J., which he closed when he retired in 1999.
Butensky's secret is going heavy on the onion — it flavors and moistens the chopped liver — and adding a little sugar, if using beef liver. "It cuts through the bitterness," he says.
And he has this final advice: Enjoy your chopped liver, and don't sweat what's in it. "Yes, it's got cholesterol," the cantor says. "But it's not like you eat it every week."
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- salt to taste
- 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 pinch white sugar
Place the eggs into a saucepan in a single layer and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Pour out the hot water, then cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink. Peel and chop once cold.
Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue cooking and stirring until the onion is very tender and golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes more. Place onion on a plate and set aside. Stir chicken livers into the same skillet. Cook until no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear. Place chicken livers on the same plate as the onions and allow to cool completely.
Place chicken livers and onion in a food processor. Process until desired texture is achieved. Place liver mixture into a bowl and season with salt and sugar. Stir in the chopped eggs. Chill before serving.
Chopped Liver Recipe
Chopped liver is a traditional Jewish recipe that the rest of the world has grown to love.
My understanding is that it is one of the traditional Passover recipes. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.
This may not be the recipe for real liver haters, but for the rest of us, it’s certainly a good one.
The old fashioned way to make chopped liver is to finely chop all of the ingredients together. Of course, nowadays we have fancy electric appliances for everything – thank goodness, or many of us wouldn’t make much.
The texture of the dish is different depending on how you process the ingredients. Traditional chopped liver would obviously be more chunky. When you use the food grinder, it has a smoother consistency. Using the food processor make the consistency more like a pate.
Traditionally chopped liver is made from schmaltz instead of oil. Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat, which is not always easy to find. Those in the know say it is still the best, so if you are a die hard foodie, you may want to seek it out and try it.
Chicken livers may be substituted for the beef liver.
Chopped liver is gluten free, a low carb recipe and a great diabetic recipe, so it suits many special diets. It can be difficult to find good appetizer recipes for special diets sometimes, so this one is welcome.
Certainly you've heard the colloquialism a rhetorical question that implies you are being ignored, dissed, slighted, avoided or downright disliked by someone.
The expression gained popularity because, well, most people do not like liver.
While it’s true that liver is an acquired taste, eaten on occasion, organ meats like chicken liver can be a healthy addition to the diet, provided the livers come from Glatt kosher sources.
Here’s why liver is good for you….
You’ve likely heard of water- and fat-soluble vitamins, but perhaps you’re not sure of what exactly that means. Vitamins like C and those in the B complex are utilized by the body (how effectively is dependent upon bio-individuality) excess water-soluble vitamins are eliminated in the urine.
Fat soluble vitamins, on the other hand, are stored in the body’s liver and fatty tissues. Chicken liver is especially rich in vitamin A, which is often difficult, in its pure form, to get enough of in the diet. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which converts into vitamin A, but it is not a direct, potent source of vitamin A like liver.
Unlike water-soluble vitamins, which need more replenishing through diet, fat-soluble vitamins, because they are stored, require less consumption, which is why most people who eat liver, do so infrequently.
Why non-Jews should also eat kosher liver
The liver is a miraculous organ. Among its thousands of tasks involved in the chemical alchemy of nutrient processing, the liver is also the major detoxification organ. Toxins are stored in the liver (and fatty tissues). In healthy people, toxins are excreted through the stool, but in people burdened with chronic disease, detoxification can be lethargic and ineffective.
Obviously, if you eat kosher, you’re only going to purchase kosher liver. But it’s worth mentioning that in kashrut laws, there can be no toxicity in the animal, because of the fact that the liver is the storage house for toxins. This reinforces the wisdom of kosher laws.
Still, it’s prudent to purchase kosher grass-fed beef and pasture-raised poultry from smaller, independent, non-factory farmed sources, and the only purveyor of such kosher meat the Miracle Noodle team has found is KOL Foods, which was created in 2007 to provide truly organic, sustainable, kosher meat. KOL sells a pound of raw chicken liver on its website for $8.49.
Another fat-soluble vitamin that’s found in liver is vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant and crucial for eye health as well as providing protection to cells (it helps form structure to cell membranes), to name a couple benefits.
Other vitamins, minerals and trace minerals in liver
Organ meats like liver contain vitamins and minerals not often found in the muscle belly of popular cuts like the thigh, breast or ribs. Here’s a partial list of other nutrients found in liver:
- --vitamin B12
- --vitamin C
Old world chopped liver recipes
The gourmet website, Epicurious.com, has an excellent and simple recipe for chopped liver. Robert Sternberg, who covers Yiddish cuisine for the website, recommends only using chicken liver. He says the flavors of beef and calf liver are too intense, especially for those that want to give liver a try for the first time.
Second rule, according to Sternberg: only cook with schmaltz. [Read ‘Schmaltz is Healthy’ on the Miracle Noodle Kosher Blog.] Do not cook with vegetable oil. The amount of schmaltz in the recipe is the equivalent of only a dab of butter, for those who are concerned about dietary fat intake and cholesterol.
Also, don’t use a food processor to chop the onions or other ingredients you plan on serving the chopped liver with. Sternberg says the chopped liver should not look like a purée or pâté.
Finally, eat only small portions, i.e. on special occasions like yom tovs.
Occasionally add chopped liver to your diet eat Miracle Noodle often & save money!
Get adventurous and creative with your kosher cooking. Miracle Noodle is an excellent substitute for traditional chicken noodle soup.
Eat all the noodles you want without the guilt.
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