The Jewish phrase, “What am I, chopped liver?” is normally considered a negative, rhetorical question, loosely translated as “why am I not being taken seriously?” After recently sitting down to a meal that consisted of chicken liver crostini, among other things, I feel obligated to voice my opinion about the sensationally delicious, comforting, grin-inducing dish that is chopped liver.
To be clear, I did not eat the classic Jewish staple, chopped liver; I had the Tuscan appetizer, crostini topped with a pate-like spread made with chicken livers. In both cases, the main ingredient is the liver, chopped up.
Last Saturday at AOC Wine Bar in Los Angeles, I spotted Chicken Liver Crostini on the menu and immediately knew I would order it because it was unusual and AOC had never disappointed me in the past. If I was going to order chicken liver anywhere, this was the place. Seeing as I was on a date, I couldn’t help but laugh at how un-sexy it was to order a dish like chopped up liver. After all, the finished product typically looks about as unappetizing as, well, brown mush. Luckily, we were sipping an extraordinary Syrah which, in my mind, balanced out the humble nature of the dish.
The crostini arrived on a bed of frisee, the toasted bread covered in a thick layer of liver spread and topped with large rounds of crispy pancetta. Kudos to AOC for making chicken livers look as pretty as possible. My date and I bit into our toasts and remained silent. It was too good for words. The crunch of the toast, the saltiness and crispness of the pancetta and the meaty depth of the spread was astonishingly good. Even better was the Syrah we had paired with it. The Syrah, rich with black cherry and hickory flavors, was excellent with the savory, meaty toasts. In one single bite and consecutive sip, I realized that this dish was to be taken seriously. While chopped liver may be modest and forgotten outside of Jewish circles, it deserves to be appreciated and enjoyed with a good wine.
My hope is that in my life time the phrase, “What am I, chopped liver” will take on a whole new meaning and people will long to be compared to such an understated side dish. Wishful thinking? Probably. But I, for one, will make it my mission to introduce as many people as possible to this dish and market it as worthy to be eaten with good wine. Should those people kvetch* that they don’t like liver, I’ll politely refuse them the excellent wine I will have chosen for such a delicious dish. That’ll teach ’em!!
* kvetch: “to complain” in Yiddish, roughly translated