[R&K’s foodporn features great dishes and storytelling from around America and beyond. Other dispatches in the series: Carolina Fried Chicken at Husk, In-and-Out’s Double-Double Animal Style, or Tito’s technicolor tacos in LA.]
On the weekend, I went to Louisville for the Christian wedding of one US Army intelligence officer to another US Army intelligence officer. The night before the ceremony, I had gone nearly straight from the airport to an American bistro called Jack Fry’s in the Highlands, and at Jack Fry’s I went straight for an Old Fashioned and for this dish, sauteed chicken livers with poached egg, brioche croutons in a vinaigrette of red wine, bacon and shallot.
Liver is not usually my first call. The last time I faced a plate of chicken liver, it was a year ago in the Pankisi Gorge in eastern Georgia at a Chechen roadside restaurant. Pankisi is pacified now, but not that long ago it was one of the rougher places on earth, a hideout for the Muslim insurgents fighting the Russians on the other side of the mountains in Chechnya, a den of gangsters and heroin cookers and arms dealers.
And yet then as now, in a roadside restaurant serving Chechen food, you get a food that I had always known as the particular domain of the Jews: chicken liver. My father makes a ridiculously good and simple chopped liver in his home in San Francisco, just onion, hard-boiled egg, chicken liver, pepper. Making that dish is perhaps the most Jewish thing he does, and eating it is certainly the most Jewish thing I do.
And no, my father’s version doesn’t include a bacon vinaigrette, nor does the sauteed onion, pepper and liver combination of the Muslims in Pankisi. But forget the accessories: it’s worth celebrating the fact that we all share this food—California half-Jews, Muslim insurgents, bourbon-loving Kentucky Christians—like we share Abraham. We are People of the Book. We eat chicken liver.