Chopped liver

Pub date December 18, 2007
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap EatsSectionFood & Drink


CHEAP EATS What I like about technology is iTunes, because you can do a search for songs about rivers. It’s coming up on Christmas. People are cutting down trees, putting up reindeer, singing songs of joy and peace. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

This week’s column will attempt to answer the oft-asked and seldom fully explored question, "What am I? Chopped liver?"

There’s an easy answer. That’s why the question’s seldom fully explored. But you know and I know that easy answers don’t tend to be any righter than convoluted ones. Plus, they’re not nearly as fun. So let’s put on a pot of coffee and our thinking caps and work this one out. Shall we?

Speaking of breaking it down, thank you for riding in the nervous breakdown lane with me last week. Like a lot of other people and Joni Mitchell, I don’t do too well during the holidays. Not anymore. I think it’s because I have friends and parties and now even dates and shit, so I get desperately nostalgic for the happy days when I would spend Christmas camping out by myself in the desert, or holing up in Idaho with Mr. and Mrs. Johnny "Jack" Poetry and some llamas.

Now, alas, I am popular and neurotic. I was at an art opening at this sex club, on my hands and knees on the floor … cleaning up the wine I’d just spilled all over my pretty dress and everything, when I overheard the following from somewhere up and over me, where heads were:

"Are you ready for your Hanukkah party?"

"I can’t find anyone to make the chopped liver. Nobody knows how to make chopped liver. Do you know how to make chopped liver?"


I jumped to my feet and located the owners of the voices. "I don’t know how to make chopped liver either!" I said. "But I love liver and would like to learn!"

Luckily I knew the conversationalists. They were friends of a friend and had no choice now but to invite me to their Hanukkah party. Didn’t I tell you I was popular?

The art show was on a Saturday, and the Hanukkah party was on Wednesday, so I had four days to learn how to make a dish that I had not only never made but also never eaten. I’d never even seen it. I’m not Jewish. I started calling all of my Jewish friends and exes and asking them who makes the best chopped liver. And, being good Jews, they all said the same exact thing: their mother.

The Liver Lady, the only one I know who loves liver more than I do, gave me the general idea: chopped-up chicken livers, some chicken fat, chopped-up onions, and hard-boiled eggs, also chopped. She would have been more exact, she said, but her mom was out of town.

I e-mailed Crawdad de la Cooter’s mom, my favorite ever ex-mother-in-law and kitchen comrade and, according to Crawdad, the best chopped-liver maker in the world. She sent a recipe, but I didn’t exactly follow it, even though it called for enormous amounts of butter. I figured if I was going to impress the Jews — which is, after all, my ultimate goal in life — I was eventually going to have to learn to make schmaltz.

Now, schmaltz … schmaltz is a beautiful thing. Especially considering what a goofy word it is. What you do is, you cut all the fat and skin off a chicken, throw it in a frying pan with some onions, and render the bejesus out of it. What you wind up with is not bacon grease, but it’s up there. Bacon fat, butter, schmaltz. I fried the chopped onions in it, broiled the chicken livers, boiled the eggs, and then brought everything together and chopped it some more.

So that’s chopped liver. As for the rest of the question, the "What am I?" … Um, the punctuation? The mark at the end of the question, the dot dot dot. Period. Pause. Your huckleberry friend?

Oh, and the chopped liver, yes. The host said it was the best he’d ever had. Out of respect for his mother, I won’t print his name.

My new favorite restaurant is Pho 84. Its hot and sour soup not only is the hottest hot and sour soup going but also has — get this — okra in it. Swimming with the shrimps and celery and pineapple and tomato. Only thing: try getting out of there for $10 or under. Definitely a date place. *

PHO 84

Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m. and 5–9 p.m.; Sat., noon–9 p.m.; Sun., 5–9 p.m.

354 17th St., Oakl.

(510) 832-1338

Takeout available