Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Page 35 of 132

I n a recent interview, cartoonist Jules Feiffer said, "All Jewish mothers loom large in their sons' lives." It's the kind of statement only a Jewish son is allowed to make — and that he tends to make only after his mother is no longer around to correct him. Feiffer went on to say that after their mother's funeral, he had asked his sister, "Can you ever remember once when Mom said she was wrong about anything?" His sister said, "Are you kidding? Mom?" My husband had this kind of mother. She loomed large, and she was never wrong, especially when it came to chopped liver. In her presence, the question, "What am I, chopped liver?" was an invitation to a dressing-down. "You wish you could make my chopped liver" was what she once said to me. Indeed I did. I'll spare you the details of the humiliation I suffered over my practice back then of using 1) mayonnaise, and 2) a food processor to make chopped liver. I can boil it down to one utterance: "What?! You want pâté? Move to France. Och, the goyim." Eventually she handed over her chopped- liver recipe. Served atop little pumpernickel slices, it became the biggest canapé hit of every party I hosted, winning out, even, over smoked salmon and capers. But delicious as it was, it still lacked something. Like many a sly chef, Roz had taken some key ingredient or technique with her to the grave. Enter Lary Saltzman, whose own mother, the glamorous Muriel "Midge" Cowen Saltzman, recently died, at age 94. But not before sharing her chopped-liver recipe. In fact, she showed her son precisely how to make it when he was still a young man growing up in Chicago, long before he moved to Louisville as part of the 1960s-established Teacher Corps program. So it turns out that for decades I had the world's best chopped- liver recipe right up the street from where I live, in the Highlands, only I had no idea. Let's not walk on eggshells here. When news spread of the death of Midge Saltzman, it was like an episode of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, which coincidentally happens to be Lary Saltzman's favorite TV show. Ever. Here was the first thing most of his friends said when they learned of the funeral date: "Have you tasted Lary's chopped liver?" "He's going to make the chopped liver, isn't he?" "No chopped liver, no funeral." One woman even said to me, "Bereavement is no excuse for not making that chopped liver. You need the recipe>> Schmaltz from one rendered chicken* 1-1½ pounds chicken livers, drained 4-5 hard-boiled eggs, very finely chopped 2 small onions, very finely chopped Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste *Remove all of the skin and fat from a whole chicken. Put the skin and fat into a frying pan on a low flame until the fat is fully rendered and the skin is crisp. Using kitchen tongs, re- move the cracklings and save the fat liquid. Lary Saltzman's Chopped Chicken Liver (You can also eat the cracklings. With fried onions they become gribenes, another great Yiddish word.) Fry the chicken livers in approximately two tablespoons of the chicken fat. After the livers are cooked, and cooled, chop them by hand until they are in very little pieces. Add the eggs, onions, salt and pepper, and then add more rendered fat to hold it togeth- er. Chill until about an hour before you plan to serve it. to taste Lary's liver." Yes, that last statement sounds a bit Hannibal Lecter-ish. But honestly, these friends were not exaggerating. Lary's own wife, Florence, said, "Lary does make the best chopped liver. I think the secret is the schmaltz." She then asked if I had ever been to Sammy's Romanian Steak House in New York City, where they serve chopped liver at the table, pour in schmaltz right before your eyes and leave the remainder on the table like butter. Like buttah. Florence added, "Tey also serve bottles of vodka that look like they were stuck in half-gallon cartons of milk and then frozen, which makes all the food taste even better." As with the names Lary and Saltzman, there are several acceptable ways to spell the Yiddish word "schmaltz." In various recipes, I have seen it spelled as schmalz, schmalts, and even smaltz, though the last was taking irreverent liberties, I believe. However you want to serve it up on paper, schmaltz literally is rendered chicken fat. You can buy it in jars in specialty grocery stores (which was precisely what my mother-in-law did), but you're going to get a much tastier end product by rendering your own, the way the Saltzmans do. When I mentioned to Lary that a number of schmaltz recipes call for adding water, garlic or certain herbs to the frying pan, he shot back, "NO WATER! No garlic. No herbs." Furthermore, he said, he never measures anything. (A cook after my own ways.) "If it's a pound of liver I might use three cooked eggs," he said. "If it's a pound and a half I might use four or five. Salt by taste, and it usually takes more salt than you think." Now how fitting is that philosophy to the man's last name? I ask you. Do you hear that, people? More salt than you think. And this is what Lary cannot emphasize enough: You have to chop every single thing very, very finely, by hand. By hand. Don't even sneak a glance at that food processor. Keep this in mind, too. Tough authentic chopped chicken liver takes a bit of time and handiwork in the kitchen, it's one of the most economical dishes in the world. Chicken liver is the cheapest thing you can buy in the butcher's section of your grocery store. Te recipe is also easy to double, and it goes a long, long way to keep guests happy at a buffet. Finally, remember this: It tastes about one million times better than it looks. "My mother always knew I would be famous one day," Lary quips. "She just didn't think it would be for chopped liver." Q 4.12 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE [33]

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