Tunisia may not be the most obvious place to pick up wines, but for me, that’s where it all started. And whenever we went to visit the wineries there, there was no hurries, no sales people trying to sell by case, but the winemaker would welcome us into the cellars and show us how things are done. After the tour, generally lunch was served and we would sit around with bottles of wines with some harissa with olive oil and tuna to go with the baguettes.
When we moved to New York City, Aaron and I joined a friendly group run by the American Wine Society, and usually the wine dinners are held at a friend’s place. We have bottles of wines, and sometimes baguette, but to go with it, chopped chicken liver is often served.
Slightly sweet, with a hint of iron taste, I love chopped liver. Chopped liver is made with usually chicken liver, onions (often cooked), and hard boiled eggs, and how chunky or creamy it is really depends on preference. Chopped liver originated from Jews of Alsace, known in the 11th century as Ashkenaz. It’s known as the Jewish version of fois gras, based on a rabbinic opinion at the time that force feeding an animal does not meet the requirements of Kashrut, and the Jews turned to chicken liver. When some Alsatian Jews later migrated further up north to Germany and other Eastern European countries, they started making their chopped liver chunkier, potentially to adopt the German version of chopped liver which goes back to Medieval time.
I grew up eating pan-seared beef liver, and my grandmother made the best. Interestingly enough, beef liver is something that was made for the Kings back in the day. Beef liver is sliced, then breaded with pepper and salt seasoned flour and eggs, then pan seared. Korean traditional meal usually has a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, and many small dishes, and beef liver is served as one of the dishes.
Pan-seared beef liver is definitely one of the dishes that makes me think of my grandmother, who still lives in Korea. At 88, she makes her own kimchi, goes to the fish market early in the morning to get the freshest fish, and never stops working, and feeding her children and grandchildren! That warm memory of grandmother and that best version of liver that she made may just be what makes these liver dishes beloved one generation to the next.