From my late teens and into my early 20’s, I spent several years working at the New York City Deli in San Francisco, including the opening of a second location. Like all restaurant jobs, it had its drawbacks but the people were good and there was respect for the food. All the product that we sent out of that tiny little kitchen was made fresh daily. Of course, fresh did not always mean right now. We cracked eggs each shift into five gallon buckets from cases of 5 dozen each. We boiled eggs in the shell for egg salad and sauteed chicken livers for chopped liver or omelets. The prepped product was often enough for several days use.
When making traditional Jewish chopped liver, the meat is cooked until it is chalky and hard. There must be not a trace of blood visible. I like chicken liver, but not cooked to such a condition. We were a Jewish style deli and that was how our livers were prepared.
There was one lovely young nursing student who came into the deli at least 4 mornings a week to order a chicken liver omelet. She always had her nose in a book but would smile at me if I managed to catch her eyes through the kitchen window.
Due to it’s high cholesterol, vitamin A, and iron content, liver is recommended to be eaten only once per week. It was her breakfast of choice and far be it from me to tell her otherwise. What I could not quite get a grip on was her apparent taste for such an overcooked product but perhaps it was how her mother made them. There was no way for me to know.
What I could do was show her was the best chicken liver omelet I could produce.
One morning when I was working alone (if I had help in that small kitchen it would have been too busy to take the time) I decided to make her plate from absolute scratch. I went to the walk in refrigerator to get fresh eggs and fresh chicken livers. She was going to eat a perfectly prepared chicken liver omelet.
First the liver. The tough connecting tissue was cut off and I separated the lobes so they would cook more evenly. I sauteed the liver in butter and fresh chopped onions with salt and fresh ground pepper until almost done through. They would finish cooking with carry over and they still had to go into the eggs. 3 fresh eggs were cracked and beaten until mixed with just a splash of water. Fresh hash browns were on the flat top in clarified butter getting the perfect crisp and a bagel, fresh that morning, went into the toaster.
The pan was hot over a medium flame when I added a knob of butter. When the butter was sizzling I poured in the eggs and turned down the burner. Using a spatula to lift the egg on one side and then the other to let wet egg under the just cooked upper portion, I finished the omelet just right without a bit of brown on the exterior. Next the liver was carefully placed onto one side of the omelet so I could gently slide the finished eggs to their place folded over on the plate.
The bagel came hot out of the toaster and I dressed it with fresh butter, not the already melted and separated stuff we usually slathered on with a brush. I stacked the bagel on the plate and added just the perfect portion of well cooked hash browns. Ringing the bell for service, I yelled for the waiter to come and get while it was hot. He came quickly and as usual practically flung the plate down before her. As the waiter walked away, she pulled her nose from the textbook just long enough to find her fork.
She ate her breakfast just as she always did. The book was slightly to one side so she could carefully cut polite bites and guide them into her perfect full lips. She chewed slowly and thoughtfully as the textbook held the rest of her attention.
I was trying hard not to stare but I wanted so badly for her to notice a difference in what she had before her compared to the usual plate. There was nothing. I had been observing her for some time and could see no hint of recognition for what I had just done.
I made her my best Chicken Liver Omelette but her expectation reduced it to just another breakfast plate, not better or worse than any other. While I was greatly disappointed in her powers of observation, she got just what she expected and nothing more. All the worse for her.
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