Yummy chopped liver
“I made chopped liver,” I began an e-mail to my mother.
I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call her, although I wanted to. But she was once again on the other side of the world, or perhaps the underside of the world. Below the equator, across the International Date Line, within the Arctic Circle: these are locations that she and my dad visit again and again, as travelers of the world.
My parents have been global travelers for more than a decade now, sailing around the planet on cruise ships that employ my father as a destination lecturer. From Bankok to Brisbane, he can tell you the stories that inform the history of places that seem more mystical than real. The number of times my folks have traversed the Panama Canal must amount to dozens. They’ve been from the Galapagos Islands to Gallipoli. My mom’s favorite place to get a haircut is, I think, in Cambodia.
I did not inherit their travel gene. Like Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz, I believe that my heart’s desire is usually to be found close to my own back door. Not far from home, just south of Bunker Hill on Route 11, a new restaurant recently opened in what was once a textile mill. The building retains its original, thick beams, log construction and stone floor. The Woolen Mills Grill offers dinner specials of such comfort staples as short ribs and gravy. A southern influence can be found in plates of frog legs or catfish, or the essential shrimp and grits. Bar fare includes 50-cent wings on football Sundays. Sandwiches come with a side of fresh, house-made potato chips. The place has quickly developed a following.
On my very first visit, I was aiming toward some kind of dinner salad when I spied, among the appetizers, chicken livers. I was done-for. Whatever my intention, I was unable to resist a nice helping of fresh-fried livers. Especially since my husband is among the majority that finds eating any sort of liver a most disgusting prospect. And I am among the minority that craves a plate of liver and onions. But in more than 30 years of marriage, I have never cooked liver in my home. If I ever get one of my favorite comfort foods, it has to be because a restaurant kitchen has put it on the menu.
The appetizer portion, which arrived cradled in wax paper within a small aluminum pail, could have filled two dinner plates. The livers were generous and moist, with a thin crackle of breading. I ate my fill and more, and still had leftovers. And they would be mine-all-mine, since leftover liver is at least as unpalatable to my dear husband as fresh liver would be.
The next day, I got a bright idea. I chopped three onions, then sauteed them in oil with pepper and salt, garlic powder and a splash of white wine. Off the heat, I finished them with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
I put the warm onions in the food processor, not having an antique meat grinder like my mother’s available for the job. Then I added the cold, leftover livers, with bits of their fried breading still clinging. I pulsed the machine until the consistency was just right, then tasted.
It wasn’t quite my mother’s chopped liver. There were no eggs in it. And she would never have added wine or vinegar to the cooked onions. But heavens, it was tasty. And it was all for me.
That evening, I fed my husband a lovely dinner of pasta with homemade sauce. And for myself, I toasted a bagel, smeared it with a little butter, and piled the chopped liver on top. It made a great dinner. But then, I knew it would. I had eaten the exact same thing for lunch.