Monthly Archives: December 2013

mme. maman’s chopped liver {ffwd}

Mme Maman's Chopped Liver

I did not grow up eating liver. When they set up house together, my parents made a pact to ban their dreaded childhood meal of liver (and Brussels sprouts). However, that meal involved calf or beef liver. Occasionally, when visiting either of my grandmothers, chicken liver, in the form of chopped liver, made an appearance, though, as a child, I was never tempted to try it. (I do think both my parents mother indulged though, so much for consistency in their preferences.) NOTE: My father just called to register his objection to my earlier statement. He tells me he hasn’t eaten liver in any form for well over 50 years, and doesn’t want anyone to think he has. He hates liver. I stand corrected, Dad!

Surprisingly, it was Howard (he who doesn’t like so many things) who recruited me to join “Team Chopped Liver” back in our courtship days. Following in his own mother and grandmother’s footsteps, he always made chopped liver for an indulgent snack. Chopped liver is hardly an everyday food. It’s must be #1 on any list of artery-clogging treats. However, I was easily convinced.

When I mentioned that this week’s choice for French Fridays with Dorie was Mme. Maman’s Chopped Liver, Howard asked how it would be different from what we usually make. His version is a combination of chicken liver, fried onions, and hard boiled eggs. Actually, there isn’t much difference. On paper, there are just three small things.

The first is technique. Mme. Maman cooks the onions, and then the livers, in A LOT of oil. The excessive oil allows the onions to brown beautifully. The extra oil is drained off, so the final spread is not overly oily.

Browned Onions

The second difference is the addition of quatre épices, a classic French blend of four spices: white pepper, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. I mixed my own based on this recipe from Gourmet.

The final difference is texture. The liver is coarsely chopped by hand (Howard usually purees the liver in the food processor), so the end result is chunkier than the smooth spread we are used to.

I served the chopped liver (in the new soufflé dishes I bought for another recent recipe) with water crackers and Club crackers. I preferred the flaky, buttery Club crackers. Ritz crackers would also be a good choice, but I didn’t have any of those in my magic pantry.

The verdict at my house was three thumbs up. Or maybe I should say two thumbs (Howard’s and mine) and one dewclaw (Bella’s). The whole family was enthusiastic. I found no need to add any of the extra oil drained off after cooking. The perfect alternative was storing it in a jar and adding a spoonful to Bella’s twice daily bowls of kibble. She’s an extremely finicky eater, but she’s finished every meal this week. Howard even caught her licking the bowl.

I think my enthusiasm puts me in the minority this week. According to the P&Q discussion, many of my Dorista friends are seriously liver-challenged. They were getting creative about faux liver substitutions. To check out their final results, faux or vrai, follow their links here. I highly recommend the vrai version. We don’t post the recipes, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

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almond-orange tuiles {ffwd}

Tuiles

I’ve been baking cookies for most of my life. For my 13th birthday, I received a copy of the classic Betty Crocker’s Cookie Book and a cookie press and I’ve been at it ever since. (I still have both the book and the cookie press!) I’ve dropped them, rolled them, and made them as bars. I’ve made biscotti, icebox cookies, and would say I’ve tried most of the cookie techniques out there. However, I was surprised at how challenging it was to make the seemingly simple recipe for this week’s French Fridays with Dorie assignment, Almond-Orange Tuiles.

Dorie tells the delightful story of enjoying these cookies in a Parisian bistro and after inquiring about their unusual flavor, being sent home not only with a container of dough but also the recipe to make them herself at home.

The tuile dough is simple to whip up. The cookie has only five ingredients, and the batter is light enough to mix by hand. You start with finely chopped blanched almonds. I chopped slivered almonds (the only kind I can easily buy that are already blanched) in my mini-chopper, then whisked in sugar and a small amount of flour. Next, the secret ingredient, orange juice, is stirred in, followed by melted butter. The dough needs to rest overnight.

Tuile Batter

Tuiles are named after the curved Provençal roof tiles they resemble. Shaping the cookies sounds simple enough. You bake the cookies until they are lacy and golden. Then, hot cookies are draped over a rolling pin to give them a perfect curved shape. For me, this was much easier to read on the page than to execute.

I baked a dozen balls in the first batch. The cookies spread and bubbled, and the edges turned golden. It was easy to transfer the first few from the pan to the rolling pin. Even though I was working fast, they were cooling too quickly and stuck to the pan. A few revisits to the oven helped, but none were as easy to transfer as those first 2 or 3.

Batch #1

For the next batch, I decided I’d try baking just six at a time. The smaller batch baked much faster than the first and didn’t transfer so well, so for the next six I turned the oven temperature down. Things got worse instead of better. In between batches, I ran cold water over the pans to cool them down and scrubbed the pan to remove the caramelized bits. I even stowed the bowl of dough in the fridge between batches. Even so, each batch seemed to race towards being burnt, in less and less time per batch.

A Rainbow of Browned-ness

A Rainbow of Browned-ness

I had VERY mixed success with these cookies. I don’t know whether I was overcooking them or undercooking them. All I know is that it was a struggle to remove the cookies from the pan, a key step in the process. After I made these, I saw a photo of what they should look like. These are much more golden than mine, but mine would have burnt before they reached the same even hue.

I did like the curvy shape and also how I could nest the cookies in the tin. However, these cookies were much more trouble than I have patience for. I don’t think I’ll try them again. In the meantime, we’ve been nibbling and enjoying them while they last.

If you are braver than I and want to try, you can find the recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. To hear other tuile tales, follow my Dorista friends’ links from here.

One final note, decades after the gift mentioned above, today is my birthday again. It’s one of my favorite days of the year! Many thanks to all of you who’ve already left me good wishes on Facebook. Each one makes me smile and feel so lucky to have friends from all over the world who are fellow food enthusiasts.