This is an elegy for chopped liver, a common appetizer with a distinguished pedigree. Its origins have been traced to 11th-century Alsace-Lorraine, where it was foie gras, made from the livers and fat of force-fed geese, plus a dash of Armagnac or Madeira, to add moisture as well as flavor, and salt. In France to this day, foie gras is officially a part of the “protected cultural and gastronomical heritage” of the nation.
I had a beautiful Hungarian grandmother, born Erzsébet Weisz and redubbed Elizabeth Weiss when she and her parents and brother and sister moved to New York from Miskolcz in the 1920s. I called her Nana and she called me darling. (It sounded like dahhrrlink, as if spoken by a brainiac Zsa Zsa Gabor.) Nana said her Ws like Vs and her Vs like Ws, so as she told it, proudly, I vent to Wassar. She had gone to another of the seven sisters, Barnard, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1926, a brand new immigrant who had enrolled only two years earlier, no less. She went on to get a Master’s at Columbia; then taught at Hunter College and later — after being denied tenure for marrying my grandfather — at Horace Mann. She spoke five languages, had perfect skin, and made splendid baby lamb chops and a mean chicken-in-the-pot.
Food editor Liza Schoenfein was pleased to discover this deeply flavorful chicken dish in “The Community Table: Recipes & Stories from the Jewish Community Center & Beyond” by Katja Goldman, Judy Bernstein Bunzl and Lisa Rotmil. (Click here to find out why.) Photograph by John Tavares