My grandmother Anna was one of the great culinary influences in my life, and still is to this day. Her kosher Latvian meals were sublime and, to my memory, world class. She had her basics—potato kugel, brisket, and meat blintzes—and regardless of the occasion, whether it was a holiday or a shibah, those dishes were omnipresent. Perhaps her most celebrated dish, however, was her chopped chicken liver. It was smooth and pâté-like in texture. It was her “it” dish. Alas, since she passed away more than twenty-five years ago, no one could ever replicate her recipe, which unfortunately was never written down.
It was the memory of that dish that has somehow been imparted into our smoked bluefish pâté. It has an inherent “umami-ness” that still gives comfort to everyone whenever we gather as a family, and it never fails to bring up comparisons to Grandmother Anna’s chopped liver. Of course we serve our pâté on celery, just as she did her liver. The one missing ingredient, that I must remember to add next time, is that sprinkle of paprika! I have a feeling she’d nod in approval.
Now, a word to the wise for the home chef: you can smoke bluefish at home, but an ever-increasing number of supermarkets are carrying it. The rest of the ingredients are easy enough to come by. But, remember, don’t skimp on the cognac—and it must be VSOP!