A scan might have found the cancer now killing Daniel van Roo. Instead his doctor gave him 50 STI tests, which van Roo believes was because he is gay.If I hadn’t taken action and if I hadn’t seen a doctor then, you know, then where I am is just where I am. But because I did do those things, I am probably going to be upset about it when I am laying in the hospital bed at the end.
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The expression “What am I, chopped liver?” comes from the experience of being ignored, which is the lot of greying offal. But that does sell short the true attraction of this dish: rich, sweet and savoury all at once, and full of the iron and vitamins that would make mothers anywhere proud.
I first ate this at a friend’s house, where she had sautéed plenty of onion in a pan and then cooked about half a kilo of liver through. When the livers were cool to room temperature, she chopped them along with two hard-boiled eggs. The whole lot was served on toast with plenty of salt and pepper. As an alternative to chopping this, you could pulse it in food processor, but I think that makes the dish too smooth. What I like about it is its texture.
This recipe has a traditional Jewish heritage, to which I have made some changes. For one, I prefer to just undercook the livers and to deglaze the pan with a few drops of brandy. When the livers are cool, I will roughly chop them and season them with salt and pepper and a touch of allspice. The softness of the livers brings a more pâté-like richness to the dish. You could make the dish even more moist by folding some cream or mayonnaise through the livers. I would serve this as an appetiser on crisp bread or challah.
This dish calls for chicken, but I will also make the case for calves’ livers. I ate the most delicious dish at a restaurant called Moro in east London. It was calves’ liver sealed over the barbecue, chopped and topped with cooked onion. It was flavoured with cumin seed and a good pinch of sweet paprika and, from memory, sumac. This was served with a garlicky herb salad and a scoop of yoghurt, and to this day is one of the most wonderful things I’ve eaten. The chopped liver was heaped onto crisp flatbread, and was just perfect.
– 1 large red onion
– 4 tbsp butter
– 400g chicken livers, trimmed of any visible fat or sinew
– white pepper
– 2 tbsp dry sherry
– 4 slices sourdough bread
– 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
– a small handful of purslane, or parsley leaves
Cut the onion in half and slice it thinly. In a frying pan, melt two tablespoons of the butter and fry the sliced onion until it is soft and starting to brown.
Once cooked, remove the onions to a bowl and set aside.
Season the livers with a pinch of salt and white pepper.
Melt the remaining butter in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the livers and cook them quickly, tossing in the butter until well browned on the outside but still pink on the inside (about three minutes).
Add the dry sherry to the pan and shake the livers around as the sherry bubbles up and emulsifies with the butter. Tip the livers into a bowl and leave them to cool slightly.
Grill or toast the bread slices. Butter them and have them at the ready.
When the chicken livers are cool enough to handle, slice them in half and mix them with the onions, thyme leaves and extra salt to taste.
Pile the mixture onto the toast and garnish it with a few sprigs of purslane.
Sánchez Romate NPU Amontillado sherry, Jerez, Spain. ($42)
– Liam O’Brien, head sommelier, Cutler & Co
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 16, 2016 as "Chicken livers on toast".
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