My mother’s been gone five years now, but each Thanksgiving she sits on my shoulder and guides me through the rituals.
So many of the foods on my table were foods she made year after year. We didn’t ask for a change in the menu – no one wanted anything to change at all. We looked forward to the appetizers – chopped liver on celery stalks (“There will be plenty of bread later.”)
Desserts were plentiful, but always included pies: apple for my brother, pumpkin for my Dad, and mincemeat for Mom and me.
Since there were only four of us, and food enough for ten, we were thrilled to start a new tradition when Mom and Dad bought a little weekend house in the Berkshires. By that time, my brother David was married with two kids. I was a career girl, working in Pittsburgh. We would gather in Hartford for Thanksgiving dinner then caravan to the country the next day.
Like us, many of the neighbors had spent their Thanksgivings at home and driven up to the mountains for the weekend. The neighbors – Gail and Dusty – also had plenty of leftovers to share, but were curious to see what others were eating for the holiday. Everyone had leftovers. And that’s how The Dead Poultry Society was born.
Every year, the Friday after Thanksgiving, for years and years, we gathered with a dozen or more neighbors to sample their family’s Thanksgiving favorites. There was an amazing pear relish from Gail. Another had scalloped potatoes that I still dream about, studded with truffles.
But rising above all these treats was the day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich my mother concocted. I’ll be making it again this year, because there’s just nothing like the sweet, salty, savory goodness of this sandwich. It’s definitely a little naughty – highly caloric – but just this one day? It’s a necessity.
And this really isn’t possible without classic chopped liver, just the way my grandmother used to make it.
Chopped Chicken Liver
6 eggs, hard boiled and peeled
1 lb. yellow skinned onions, minced fine
3 oz chicken fat (schmaltz) or unsalted butter
1 T grapeseed oil
1/2 lb. chicken livers from pastured free range chickens (I always add the turkey liver, too.)
2 T cognac
Chop the eggs very fine using an mezzaluna or food processor. They should be fluffy. Put in a large bowl and set aside.
In a large heavy saute pan, heat half the butter with the oil. Add the onions and saute slowly until richly browned but not burned.
Salt and pepper generously while they cook.
In the meantime, rinse and clean the livers well, removing connective sinew.
When the onions have finished cooking, put them in the bowl with the eggs.
Heat 3 oz of schmaltz or butter in the onion pan and saute the livers until no pink remains. Do not brown or crisp. Salt and pepper generously.
Remove the livers from the pan and deglaze with the cognac.
Put the livers in your food processor or a bowl.
Pour the deglazing liquid and goodies from the bottom of the pan into the egg/onion mixture.
Chop the livers with a mezzaluna. If you use your food processor, pulse off and on to chop, not liquify.
Gently fold the livers into the onion/egg mixture.
Test and correct for seasoning. The flavor blooms after chilling, so make this in advance and season carefully.
Pack in ramekins or other serving dishes. Keep dishes small – about 4 oz. and make sure to freeze whatever will not be used within two days.