100 Favorite Dishes: Chicken Liver Pâté at Sitka & Spruce"/>
Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation, is frequently credited with pushing the organization to do more than throw fancy dinners for rich folks. That's an admirable achievement, but in the annals of Mitchell's societal contributions, I'm not sure much can top the chopped liver recipe he included in his 2002 cookbook The Mensch Chef, or Why Delicious Jewish Food Isn't an Oxymoron.
I've used Davis' recipe to make chopped liver for Seders attended by a dozen Jews fluent in chicken livers, and Seders attended mostly by Gentiles who've only encountered liver on diner plates with lima beans. The chopped liver's a hit with all of them.
What makes Davis' recipe work is lots and lots of schmaltz, or chicken fat (it also helps to eschew the Cuisinart - not always an easy task if you happen to be cooking in your Jewish mother's kitchen - and grate raw onion into the liver a few hours before serving.) The onions are sauteed in schmaltz, and if the finished product's consistency isn't quite right, Davis recommends more schmaltz.
Chicken fat's also the secret to Matt Dillon's brilliant chicken liver pâté, a luxe, lush entry on a lunch menu that's otherwise dominated by light-sounding ingredients such as raw radishes and sugar snap peas. There's usually a seasonal pickle on Sitka & Spruce's pâté plate, but it's hard to distract from the custardy pâté, speckled with sea salt and ready to be spread on Melba toasts. Using chicken fat like that, it's no wonder Dillon won the Beard Foundation's Best Chef Northwest award.