Tuesday, December 20, 2011

To All My Hebrew Brothahs and Sistahs...Challah!

For the commemoration of the millennium, a group of friends and I took a road trip from Chicago to Woodstock, NY to ring in the New Year.  We were a rag tag group of not necessarily petite sized gay men, crammed into a Ford Jimmy truckin' across the country singing along to Macy Gray and discussing the merits of music by Moby.

When we arrived at our destination, a beautiful wooded retreat, we were welcomed with hugs, food, and libations from the parents of one of my dearest friends.  We survived a 12 hour journey, all limbs intact and still enjoying each others company.  The weekend was a debaucherous haze filled with laughter, hikes to frozen waterfalls, and tons of food.

One evening, Evelyn, our host's octogenarian mother who resided in an adjoining apartment, invited us, as any good Jewish woman would, over for scotch and chopped liver.  She was a short, sturdy woman with a quick wit and recipes filled with tradition. Now this midwestern boy was at that time no connoisseur of chopped liver, but I graciously accepted the grey mass on a toast point and chowed down.  It was an interesting bite to say the least; it tasted like...well, like liver.  The conversation was even more interesting that evening as Evelyn pontificated on a variety of topics with some Old World wisdom and attitude, quite often drawing forth riotous laughter and dropped jaws. Evelyn blissfully drank her scotch and nibbled on her chicken liver. It was a night to remember.

Sadly, Evelyn is no longer with us, and I don't see those dear friends nearly as often as I would like, but the memories remain fresh in my mind. So, 0n the first night of Chanukah, or as my friends call it, Chaka Khan, I offer up a spin on Evelyn's chopped liver.  Or as I like to call it Country Style Chicken and Fig Paté.

Happy Chaka Khan, y'all.

Country Style Chicken and Fig Paté 
It's tough to make chopped liver pretty...
(or Fancy Chopped Liver)

The figs add a delightful sweetness to the liver, taking away a bit of that offal taste, and the walnuts provide an unexpected crunch.

1 lb chicken livers
1 small shallot, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dried mission figs, diced
1/4 cup cognac
3 Tbl Pernod
3 Tbl heavy cream
2 Tbl stone ground mustard
1 Tbl capers, drained 
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped parsley
thyme bundle
1 bay leaf
milk, for soaking chicken livers

Carefully drain and rinse chicken livers.  Remove any "extra goodness" and place in a glass bowl. Cover livers with milk and soak for at least 15 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbl olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions, shallot, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for roughly five minutes until soft.  Add thyme bundle, bay, and figs, and cook for an additional five minutes until figs begin to soften and plump.  Deglaze pan with cognac, reserving 2 Tbl, scraping up bits with a wooden spoon.  Allow the cognac to reduce by half, and add Pernod.

Drain chicken livers and add to the pan.  Season with salt and pepper and allow those little suckers to brown up (roughly 15 minutes).  Add the remaining 2 Tbl of cognac and allow to reduce once more.

Transfer mixture to a food processor, discarding thyme and bay.  Add mustard, cream, capers, walnuts,and parsley.  Pulse mixture until smooth, yet still a bit chunky.  Transfer to a bowl and cover surface with plastic wrap.  Chill for at least one hour.

Serve with crostini, radishes, and apples and a lovely white wine (or scotch).

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