The Best “Mock Chopped Liver” Ever! Vegan Caramelized Onion Mushroom Pâté à la Rothschild: An Elegant Viennese Version of The Iconic Ashkenazi Jewish Vegetarian Soul Food (Recipe) #Shabbosdik #KosherForPassover

Mound of Mock Chopped Liver Paté à la Rothschild with Gold Leaf and a Sliver of Truffle
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Recipe: Vegan Chopped Liver or Caramelized Onion-Mushroom Spread.

Notice: The Rothschild family, was a prominent Jewish banking family in Vienna and had a complicated and difficult history with the city. Despite their significant contributions and presence in Vienna, their name has been compromised and evoked in connection with anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories. This rich history associated with the family has not been reflected in Vienna’s public spaces since the Nazi era and Vienna’s post-war tabula rasa. There are no memorials or commemorations of the Rothschilds’ important presence in the city. Instead, the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Labor have acquired land on which different Rothschild buildings once stood, profiting from the persecution and extermination of Europe’s Jews. Unlike other monuments and city palaces that were renovated and restored, these buildings once owned by Jews were left in ruins and demolished.

I found that I could honor the Rothschilds and their great history through an especially refined version of the traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish, “mock chopped liver.” My vegan version, a pâté made from caramelized onions and mushrooms, is named “Pâté à la Rothschild.” It is served with a touch of elegance, symbolized in a rather decadent manner by a sliver of black truffle and a gold leaf on top. This recipe is undoubtedly a delicious way to remember and honor the cultural heritage and history represented by the Rothschilds.

Chopped liver, also known as pâté de foie in French when finely purréed or — generally, when more coarsely chopped, as gehakte leber in Yiddish — is a beloved traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish often served as a spread or side dish. The meaty version of the dish is made from liver, typically chicken livers, which are cooked and then pureed with onions, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes other ingredients such as schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or matzo meal and nuts. This rich and flavorful dish is considered a classic comfort food in Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine and is often enjoyed on special occasions such as Shabbat and Jewish holidays, especially Pesach (Passover). The only fleishige (meaty) real chopped liver recipe you’ll ever need, if you need it, is to be found over at Jonathan Hirshon, a/k/a the food dictator.1

Its vegetarian counterpart, mock chopped liver, is also a genuine classic of the Ashkenazi Jewish food canon. Both versions are among the most popular of all Jewish dishes. This is understandable, because they are succulent concoctions. In fact, this is not one dish but — in its many iterations — a whole family of dishes. For most vegetarian and vegan recipes, ingredients vary greatly, from beans and lentils to eggplants and mushrooms. Like its meaty counterpart, most contain a sizable amount of succulent caramelized onions. The recipe I present here is a very Viennese caramelized onion mushroom paté. Even Sigmund Freud loved to go foraging for mushrooms in the Viennese woods, dressed in traditional local garb. This is representative of the city’s bourgeois Jewish population at that time. This is the story behind this marvelous dish we continue to make, at least, every Pesach, because it is so delicious when accompanied by Matzo, the unleavened Jewish flatbread.

The Bitter Taste of Tradition: The Dark Side of Chopped Liver

Chicken livers became the Jewish standard to be used for the meaty counterpart of mock chopped liver. Eating chicken livers, as opposed to goose liver, was part of an authentic way of life, the original “head to tail” eating, where nothing goes to waste.

Jewish goose breeder in the vicinity of Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia) in 1938. (Photo by Roman Vishniac
Jewish goose breeder in the vicinity of Nagyszombat (Trnava, Slovakia) in 1938. (Photo by Roman Vishniac via CEU Press.)

Originally though, for the gourmets, goose or duck liver or, at least, the rendered fat of geese and ducks, was often used. This still is considered a delicacy, and due to its high cost, is mostly served in top restaurants and sold in high-end gourmet markets. In the old days, before the extermination of European Jewry, Jews in the countryside often raised herds of geese, especially here in Central and Eastern Europe. See the famous photograph by Roman Vishniac of a Jewish goose breeder standing in his backyard with his geese in Slovakia in 1938, just before annexation by Nazi Germany.

As a matter of fact, there is a Jewish History of foie gras. Indeed, it is little known that the delicacy of foie gras has deep roots in Jewish history. As far back as the writings of Cato the Elder in his treatise “On Farming,” the practice of fattening geese through force-feeding was documented. What’s even more intriguing is the revelation that it was Jewish slaves, employed by the Romans, who executed this task. Still, Jews eventually adopted the method and honed it, continuing and spreading the tradition for centuries across various Jewish communities in Europe.2

Foie gras became a common staple in Europe among even the most pious Jews. According to Joan Nathan, in the 16th century, Jews were seen as the best suppliers of foie gras. So much so that in 1571 the Pope’s chef praised the liver of a goose “raised by Jews.”3

As Gil Marks notes in his seminal work “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” the export of goose liver emerged as one of Israel’s first commercial exports in the immediate aftermath of the country’s founding in 1948. This delicacy can be attributed to the efforts of Moshe Friedman, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor and third-generation goose farmer. Friedman, through his persuasive powers, was able to secure government funding for the production of goose livers on his kibbutz. He then went on to sell the product to an Alsatian pâté manufacturer, thereby elevating the status of goose liver to that of a highly sought-after delicacy in the culinary world.4

But Jews very much also needed the byproduct of this procedure — the schmaltz, which is the rendered fat of the geese and ducks, for cooking. Schmaltz was particularly needed for this recipe in question, especially in the lands where olive oil was not plentiful. These Jews traditionally use schmaltz in places where gentiles used their own version of schmaltz, which was rendered pork fat. Jews need schmaltz because religious law prohibits the eating of pork, as well as the mixing of dairy and meaty products. Whenever a gentile recipe called for dairy butter or rendered pork fat to cook meat(y) products, they adapted it by using fat from these birds. (Much later they also had the option to use cheap oil. I use olive oil for this recipe!)

Unfortunately, goose or duck liver (and its byproduct schmaltz’s fabulous taste) don’t come without the horrible toll of animal cruelty involved in the force-feeding of the animals. Indeed, geese and ducks are being force-fed to render their livers abnormally swollen and fatty before they are harvested. This process is called “gavage” in French. A funnel is thrust down the goose — or duck’s — neck to force-feed it. After some time of repeating this extraordinarily cruel practice, the animal’s liver has swollen to many times its natural size and, by that process also becomes tastier.

So even though chopped liver is traditionally made with plain chicken liver rather than goose or duck liver, it often relied on schmaltz (rendered fat) from these animals.

The Controversy of Foie Gras: Ethical, Religious and Legal Implications

Some people avoid eating goose and duck liver, schmaltz, or animals altogether on ethical grounds. There are also implications in Jewish religious law, such as “Tza’ar ba’alei chayim5 (Hebrew: צער בעלי חיים), literally translated to “suffering of living creatures.” This prohibits causing suffering to animals. Some Jewish community leaders have, in the past, forbidden the consumption of foie gras, this abnormally fatted goose or duck liver. Famed 11th-century French Jewish scholar Rashi (1040-1105)6 cautioned Jews against the extraordinarily cruel force-feeding practice, “for having made these beasts (geese) suffer while fattening them.”7

In Hungary, the famous rabbi Moses Sofer (1762–1839)8 acknowledged the suffering of the animals, but finally ruled that foie gras was kosher. Today, foie gras is not to be found on the average kosher plate but that’s mostly because the process of kashering (rendering something kosher) the liver is hugely labor-intensive. The livers cannot be kashered through soaking and salting like regular meat. Instead, it must be broiled or grilled over an open flame. Furthermore, according to Jewish dietary laws, the esophagus of every bird must be inspected after slaughter to ensure it has no holes, scars, or blemishes, which would indicate suffering while the animal was alive. This acute suffering is caused by the extremely cruel process of force-feeding during which the gullet is often damaged and injured. 

There are also problems with secular law, as foie gras production has been banned in Israel since 2005 after the country’s supreme court ruled that it violates animal cruelty laws. Germany, the UK, and Switzerland also prohibit force-feeding birds: the production and even import of foie gras is prohibited in the UK, and California banned the sale of foie gras in 2018.

The issue of foie gras production is certainly a contentious one, with varying standpoints on the ethical, religious, and legal aspects of the industry. At the core of the debate is the treatment of animals, and it’s clear that the inhumane treatment of birds is a concern that must be taken into account when discussing the consumption or production of foie gras. While some choose to abstain from consuming foie gras, others advocate for stricter regulations to guarantee that animals are treated humanely during the production process. Farmers in Spain pioneered the organic and cruelty-free production of foie gras, aiming to prove that it can be made in a more humane, natural, and sustainable way.9 

Jewish Vegetarian Cuisine: A Delicious History

One is tempted to say that it’s no wonder Jews came up with vegetarian versions of chopped liver, long before the advent of recent vegetarian or vegan trends. Some Jewis vegetarian recipes are more than a hundred years old.10

But why did the Jews develop the vegetarian or even vegan versions?

Probably in part due to their compassionate feeling toward animals, but also, because, per religious law, it’s forbidden to mix milk and meat on the same plate, or even in the same meal. So, some meals and some restaurants were made “meaty”. These places were known as “delicatessen,” and became famous for their corned beef or pastrami sandwiches and, needless to say, the original chopped liver.

Other establishments were their “dairy” counterparts. To be precise, these places were pescatarian, serving the famous lox in many variations. They specialized in fish, dairy, and vegetarian food like sour cream-topped blintzes, latkes, pirogies, and, of course, lox bagels. Since they couldn’t serve the beloved and obligatory meaty chopped liver, they served vegetarian (or even vegan) mock chopped liver instead.

Among the city’s many dairy restaurants on New York’s Lower-East-side was the legendary restaurant “Ratner’s,” a celebrated venue we’ve mentioned more than once on this blog. Vegetarian or even vegan mock chopped liver was a well-established star on the menu of these dairy restaurants. (See Ratner’s 1970 menu appetizers section: “Chopped Vegetarian Liver”)11 Most of these restaurants have, alas, closed in the past decades, and didn’t make it into the current boom of vegetarianism and veganism.

Appetizers from Ratners menu 1970 (via the Culinary Institute of America)
Appetizers from Ratners menu 1970 (via the Culinary Institute of America): Click here to see the whole menu!

Ratner’s menu can be viewed as a classic example of such a dairy menu. Sadly, after the destruction of Europe’s Jewish life, we can only speculate what was on the menu of pre-Shoa Viennese dairy restaurants.

The Liver: Nutritious but Toxic

Today, health is another reason why some people choose to stop eating meat, and particularly red meat, liver, and other organ meats. While liver is a good source of some vitamins and other essential nutrients, they also act as a storage spot for waste and toxins that the body of the animal accumulates over time, even when said animal is raised more humanely and organically.

Additionally (and sadly,) the consumption of organ meats is often associated with high levels of bad cholesterol. The idea of cutting back on red meat and processed meat products, as well as avoiding innards like liver, kidney, and heart, is becoming increasingly popular due to these annoying health concerns.

As a result, many people are turning to plant-based diets as a healthier, sustainable, and humane alternative. Study after study shows that vegetarians and vegans may very well have a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even certain types of cancer. Plant-based diets have also proven effective for weight loss and weight management, as well as effectively reducing the risk of obesity.

It is high time to bid farewell to the age-old staples of steak and liver and make way for a more enlightened and sustainable approach to nourishment. The consumption of greens and legumes, as part of a plant-based diet not only confers myriad health benefits but also offers a delicious and varied culinary experience. Adopting this dietary approach is not only beneficial for our own well-being, but also serves as a means of protecting the welfare of animals and preserving the environment. A clear-cut case of win-win.

Judaism and Vegetarianism: A Divine Perspective

It may come as a surprise to some, but vegetarianism has a rich history within the Jewish faith and culture. As early as the book of Bereishis in the Chumash (Genesis 1:29), there are references to the consumption of a plant-based diet, as written in the verse:

And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit—to you it shall be for food.”

This passage highlights the idea that a plant-based diet is not only permissible but also encouraged within the tenets of biblical Judaism. 

Some Rishonim12 (leading rabbis from the 11th to 15th centuries) hold that the Torah hereby refers to vegetarianism as an ideal state for mankind. They argue that Adam and Eve did not eat meat and that originally, all humans and animals were only allowed to eat plants. These commentators maintain that the original intent of creation was for humans to be only vegetarians and that permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:1–17) was a temporary concession given only because mankind was too weak to sustain itself on plants alone.

Not surprisingly, there are organizations like Jewish Veg13 and Behemla14 that advocate for Jewish vegetarianism and, for the latter, even Haredi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish vegetarianism.

Famous Jewish Vegetarians: From Singer to Spock

Isaac Bashevis Singer in 1969 (Israel Press and Photo Agency, National Library of Israel, Dan Hadani collection via Wikipedia)
Isaac Bashevis Singer in 1969 (Israel Press and Photo Agency, National Library of Israel, Dan Hadani collection via Wikipedia)

Isaac Bashevis Singer,15 the Nobel prize laureate, Yiddish poet, and staunch vegetarian who passed away at the age of 88 in 1991, was famous for his love of mocked chopped liver.16 The recipe he supposedly most cherished included hard-boiled eggs, canned peas, or string beans mixed with loads of caramelized onions.

Other notable Jewish vegetarians include fellow writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon, the world-famous author Franz Kafka, and the vegan and prominent actress and director Natalie Portman.

To add to this collection a rather heteroclite touch, Leonard Nemoy, of Ukrainian-Jewish descent and who played the herbivore character of the Vulcan called Spock in the 1967 series Star Trek, was himself a lifelong vegetarian off-screen too.17

“Faux Gras:” The Vegan version of Foie Gras – A French delicacy with a Conscience!

The French are known for their love of Foie Gras, but for some time now they’ve embraced the plant-based revolution with “Faux Gras”, a vegetarian pâté that is very similar to mock chopped liver — we’ll see the difference later! Famous foodies have dished out recipes for this meat-free version. You can definitely enjoy the delicious taste without the guilt and cruelty. Famous food bloggers like David Lebovitz feature recipes for this dish on their websites. Lebovitz’s spread is based on lentils and mushrooms and is adapted from Rebecca Leffler’s successful book “Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic“.18

Organic “Faux Gras,” a vegan foie gras, a sort of French chopped vegetarian liver from the grocery store. (To be precise, the faux gras from Gaia is not French but Belgian.)

Forget Faux Gras, Try the Traditional Jewish Un-Instagrammable Pâté

The main difference between the nowadays fashionable and ubiquitous vegan liver pâté, the so-called “faux gras,” and Jewish mocked chopped liver, is that the Jewish versions aren’t colored with beet juice to mimic blood or slightly raw meat. That’s because Jews traditionally don’t eat blood. The Torah explicitly prohibits the consumption of blood because of the belief that the life of the animal is contained in the blood.

As an extension, Jews tend to not eat raw meat (with the exception of this Freudian story19 behind “steak-tartar”, which is minced raw beef).

In Jewish recipes, the liver for the meaty version of chopped liver was always well-cooked and even grilled or broiled so that no trace of raw meat or blood would render the final result pinkish. Hence, the vegetarian and vegan versions are also not reddish or pinkish. Instead they are brown from the caramelization of the onions and the liver, or, respectively in our recipe, mushrooms. But, as mentioned, it has traditionally been made with fried eggplants and the like.

It must be acknowledged that the final product from using these products may end up a hue that can range from a subdued brown to a drab grey, may not be the most visually appealing, but despite this unassuming appearance, it remains a delicacy that’s highly prized for its taste.

Adding Crunch to Vegan Chopped Liver

In addition to the aforementioned ingredients, the occasional inclusion of toasted nuts, such as walnuts or almonds, serves to impart a textural element to the overall dish.

When making mock chopped liver, you’ll typically find both hard-boiled eggs and crackers on the list of ingredients. These bring some texture, but the main task is to stretch out the recipe, making it cheaper, more affordable, and/or less labor-intensive per weight. Caramelizing onions may be a labor of love, but it’s worth it for that umami-rich, savory flavor. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the pan, or you’ll end up with burnt onions (and burnt bridges with your taste buds.)

The Maillard Magic: The Secret Behind Jewish Vegan Chopped Liver’s Umami Explosion

The vegan and vegetarian versions of chopped liver rely heavily on the Maillard reaction, which is the caramelization of onions and other vegetables like mushrooms. This provides a rich umami flavor that is highly desirable. Outside of Passover, to make it even more delicious, I add a hint of soy sauce (omit for Pesach! Use a hint more salt instead and probably a bit of MSG). Also, I always deglaze and flambée it with a healthy splash of brandy — a kosher Jewish brandy — and one more secret ingredient for ultimate mouth-watering goodness. But more on that later. The end result is an addictive mixture that you’ll definitely want to keep eating.

The Maillard reaction is all about creating depth and complexity in the flavors. Also, whether it’s a hint of soy sauce, MSG, a splash of brandy, or our secret ingredient, these added touches bring the dish to the next level of deliciousness. So, not only is this mock chopped liver a healthier and more ethical option, but it’s also packed with bold, irresistible flavors that will have your taste buds dancing.

Mock Chopped Liver: The Delicious and Sustainable Alternative

Believe it or not, many people prefer well-executed vegan and vegetarian versions of chopped liver over the traditional meat-based dish. Personal health and animal welfare concerns are big factors in my own preference for mock chopped liver over the original. Don’t get me wrong … I can understand how this might sound like heresy to some. But for me, mocked chopped liver definitely trumps the meaty version. Generations of Jewish gourmets and patrons have canonized the vegetarian and vegan renditions.

You don’t have to choose between one or the other. You can love both the meaty chopped liver and the vegetarian mock chopped liver paté. Personally, I can’t eat the meaty version anymore.

One key difference between the vegan and vegetarian versions is the addition of eggs — vegans please skip to the next heading! With the inclusion of eggs, the mock chopped liver comes close to the original traditional dish, which is often served with roughly chopped hard-boiled eggs. When using eggs, it’s important to ensure that they are organic and that the male chickens (i.e. the non-egg-laying-useless-ones) are not harmed (i.e. shredded) in the process.

Try the pâté in a traditional rough Jewish shtetl way, mixed with an equal amount of chopped hard-boiled eggs. It’s divine! It’s not the same as regular meaty chopped chicken liver, but it is undoubtedly mock chopped liver and it has earned its place in the Jewish culinary pantheon as a classic Ashkenazi soul food. Give it a try and see for yourself!

Open Faced Sandwiches with Vegan Mock Chopped Liver Paté à la Rothschild Served With a Leaf of Gold and a Sliver of Truffle
Two open-faced sandwiches with vegan Mock Chopped Liver Paté à la Rothschild served with gold leaf and a sliver of black truffle. Open-faced sandwiches are very popular in Vienna, even at the opera or the theater.

Passover-Approved Vegan Chopped Liver: A Jewish Holiday Delight

One may ask what is it about this recipe that precludes it from being deemed suitable for consumption during the Passover holiday, which is traditionally a time when adherence to dietary laws is of the utmost importance among observant Jews?

It’s simple. Our recipe is suited for Passover for every Jew because it does away with crackers, beans, or string beans, all of which are often found in other versions of mocked chopped liver recipes. This means it is ready for an authentic Ashkenazi Pesach holiday, because observant Ashkenazi Jews don’t even eat beans on Passover.

Our recipe is not diluted, stretched, or thinned out with beans or tofu, making it totally vegan and flavor-intensive.

However, this vegan mock chopped liver is not suitable for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, as it contains walnuts (which in Gematria, the Jewish practice of assigning numeric values to words, equals “sin.” This is really not what we want, particularly on this occasion. You could simply replace the walnuts with toasted almonds or pecans for a bit of a different twist.

Upgrade Your Chopped Liver: The Refined Pâté à la Rothschild Style

As I mentioned earlier, the delectable spread we’re proposing here is made up of finely pureed caramelized onions and mushrooms. They are carefully pureed and delicately seasoned, unlike the traditional coarsely chopped shtetl liver. Classic chopped liver is neither classy nor refined, as in the phrase, “What am I, chopped liver?” meaning to be overlooked like a poor side dish.

Robert Sternberg’s cookbook “Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet Approach to Jewish Cooking20 makes the distinction between a regular, coarsely chopped mock chopped liver and a finely pureed version, which he calls by the fancy French term “pâté.” When it’s thoroughly ground, Sternberg even suggests calling it “pâté à la Rothschild”.

Our recipe, the Viennese elegant “à la Rothschild” way, is featured here and is more intense than usual, but is still very sophisticated. If you want to be eccentric, you can call it “pâté.” As you can see from the title of this blog post, we do so because I find this label to be very appropriate for such a distinguished Jewish dish served in Vienna, of all places.

Founded by banker Salomon Mayer von Rothschild in Vienna in 1820, the Rothschilds became an Austrian banking family in what was then the Austrian Habsburg Empire. They later established businesses in multiple big European cities including London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Naples.

Legendary philanthropists, the Rothschilds were so mythically rich and refined that “à la Rothschild” was the most distinguished attribute a dish, or any piece of fashion, jewelry, or artisanship, could earn.

A recent Viennese exhibition at the Jewish Museum explored Vienna’s complicated relationship with the Jewish banking family, including persistent anti-Semitic conspiracy theories regarding the Rothschilds and the use of their name as a codeword for anti-Semites around the world.21

To understand Vienna’s difficult history with the Rothschilds — and most any other Jew in fact — it’s important to understand that the various political groups in Vienna have all benefited from the Jews’ forced disappearance. For example — and this sets the tone for post-war and present-day Austria — the chamber of commerce built one of its most important building complexes on the grounds of the former Rothschild Hospital, which had also been used as a major camp for displaced persons after the war.

Rothschild Spital (Hospital), Vienna, 1873
Rothschild Hospital (Rothschild “Spital der Israelitischen Cultusgemeinde in Wien”), the hospital of Vienna’s Jewish community, Vienna, 1873. (via Wikipedia)
Holocaust Encyclopedia - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Rothschild Hospital Displaced Persons Camp
Rothschild Hospital seen used as DP (displaced persons’) Camp, Vienna after World War II (via Holocaust Encyclopedia – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Jewish refugees at the Rothschild hospital in 1947. Some 70.000 displaced persons were received here after 1945 and received medical attention, new ids, and food. (Austrian National Library, ÖNB)
Between July 1945 and May 1948, approximately 250,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors fled Eastern Europe to displaced persons camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy, in what was the largest organized, illegal, mass movement in modern times. The photograph above shows Jewish refugees at the Rothschild hospital in 1947. At this Rothschild Hospital, around 70,000 displaced persons received medical attention, new IDs, and food starting in 1945. (Austrian National Library, ÖNB)
Members of the staff of the Rothschild Hospital pose on the hospital's grounds. Those pictured include Kravetz, head of internal security, Abel Birman, Moshe Goldfinger, Margot Feuer and Duli Katz. Photographer George Birman Date 1946 - 1948
Members of the post-war staff of the Rothschild Hospital pose on the hospital’s grounds. Those pictured include Kravetz, head of Internal Security, Abel Birman, Moshe Goldfinger, Margot Feuer, and Duli Katz. Photographer: George Birman. Date: 1946 – 1948 (via Holocaust Encyclopedia – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
Jewish DPs celebrate at a banquet at the Rothschild Hospital.
Displaced People’s slow return to life: Jewish DPs celebrate at a banquet at the Rothschild Hospital. (1946 – 1948. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of George Birman.)
A seder — with chopped liver or mock chopped liver? — held at the Rothschild Hospital DP camp and led by Rabbi Israel from Romania. (The couple pictured sitting on the right are Rabbi Morris (Moshe) Schonfeld and Pearl Schonfeld.) Photographer: George Birman. Date 1946 – 1947. (via Holocaust Encyclopedia – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

And what a coincidence … believe it or not, the worker’s counterpart of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Labor, built one of its main buildings on the lot of one of the Rothschilds’ big inner-city palaces, the Palace of Baron Albert von Rothschild. During the Nazi regime, this palace served as headquarters for Adolf Eichmann’s, יש”ו (“may his name and memory be erased“), sinister Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna (“Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung” in German), through which, starting in August 1938, around 40,000 Austrian Jews were forced to emigrate. From October 1939, this was the headquarters for the organization of the deportation of Austria’s Jews. Thus, the personnel of this agency were immediately responsible for the deportation of at least 48.767 Austrian Jews who had been abducted from Vienna and murdered.22 BTW, many of the key responsibles, like Ernst Brückler, Alois Brunner or Anton Burger, ימח שמם וזכרם (“may their names and memories be erased,“) never even stood trial.

Palais Albert Rothschild, garden front, circa 1906
Palace of Baron Albert von Rothschild, garden front, circa 1906, in the former Heugasse 26 (called Prinz-Eugen-Straße since 1911) in Vienna’s 4th district. (Source: Hippolyte Destailleur – “Wien am Anfang des XX. Jahrhunderts – Ein Führer in technischer und künstlerischer Richtung” 2nd volume, edited by “Österreichischen Architekten-Verein,” publisher “Verlag von Gerlach & Wiedling,” Vienna, 1906, via Wikipedia)
Palais des Freiherrn Albert von Rothschild in der damaligen Heugasse 20–22 im 4ter Wiener Gemeindebezirk (1906)
The impressive entrance front of the palace of Baron Albert von Rothschild in Vienna around 1907, decades before it was turned into the horribly ominous Central Agency for Jewish Emigration in Vienna (ibid. via Wikipedia)

Certainly, you may rightfully object that both the Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Labor have legally acquired the land on which they built these important buildings. But it is important to note that this would not have been possible without the persecution and annihilation of European Jewry, and in this instance the victimization and spoliation of the Rothschilds and their name throughout the city. Additionally, while many other monuments and city palaces were revitalized and renovated after the war, these Jewish buildings, or buildings with a Jewish history, were not given the same consideration.

Interior of the Rotschild Palace (Painting by Ludwig Rösch, 1907)
Interior of the Rothschild Palace (Painting by Ludwig Rösch, 1907)

The Palais Rothschild, a collection of grand palaces in Vienna, Austria, once stood as a testament to the immense wealth and prestige of the Austrian branch of the Rothschild banking family. These grand structures, renowned for their size and elegance, housed vast collections of valuable paintings, statues, furniture, books, and armor — a reflection of the family’s vast wealth and prominent position. But the opulence of the Palais Rothschild was short-lived. In 1938, the Nazi regime confiscated the collections and the palaces were left in ruins during World War II. The heirs of the Rothschild family received little compensation in the aftermath of the war, and what remained of the buildings was either sold off or destroyed and replaced by modern office buildings. The history of these palaces and the art collections they contained is symbolic of the rise and fall of the Austrian branch of the Rothschild family.23

One of the many famous paintings of the Rothschild collection: Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his gallery in Brussels by David Teniers the Younger. (via Wikipedia)
One of the many famous paintings from the Rothschild collection that was taken as spoils is “Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in his gallery in Brussels” by David Teniers the Younger. (via Wikipedia)

This history is nowhere to be found in the public space of Vienna. The Rothschilds, who were once an integral part of the city, have been erased from the city’s memory. With some empathy towards the victims and a sense of responsibility, there should have been memorials, commemorative inscriptions, or at least one small “Stone of Remembrance24 in memory of what once existed. This is still post-war Austria. Vienna wants to make a clean slate.

It is an intriguing and perhaps telling detail that the Chamber of Commerce, upon completing the last renovations, chose not to reinstall a small sign marking the site as the former Rothschild Hospital.

In contrast, the Chamber of Labor took a more proactive approach by hosting an exhibition several years ago that directly addressed the topic and received positive reception.

An AI-Assisted Righteous Dream

In a parallel universe there seems to be a ChatGPT25 bot that has it right in a short notice about a wild and righteous fantasy: As I was trying to teach the ChatGPT bot — pointlessly and in vain — the difference between “Holocaust,” “Shoah,” and “The Extermination of European Jewry,” I asked it to write a notice about Vienna’s former Jewish community hospital, the Rothschild Hospital. This is what the ChatGPT bot spat out:

ChatGPT: …Discover the rich history of Vienna’s Jewish community at the Rothschild Hospital. Built in 1869, the hospital served as a medical institution for the city’s Jewish population for over a century. Today, the hospital serves as a museum and cultural center, offering a glimpse into the lives and experiences of Viennese Jews during a significant period of the city’s history. Visit the Rothschild Hospital to learn more about Vienna’s Jewish heritage and the important role the hospital played in the community.”

Seems to be the only possible human way it reasonably should be! It seemingly appears to be the most logical response and course of action:

Me: Wow. You came up with a noble-minded fantasy, because unfortunately, but very tellingly, the Viennese have destroyed and torn down the hospital and nothing, not even the smallest sign of the rich and complex history remains on sight.

…your response is so beautiful and human that I incorporated it into my new post about the Rothschild Hospital and Mock Chopped Liver. Your reaction is the only human one. The response of the Viennese on other hand is inhumane, lacking any empathy.

ChatGPT: I’m glad that my previous response was able to inspire your post, even though it was not accurate. As a language model, I can generate text based on what I’ve been trained on, but I don’t have personal experiences, emotions or the ability to understand human behavior. It’s unfortunate that the Rothschild Hospital no longer exists, and it’s important to remember and honor the rich history and cultural heritage it represented. I’m glad you are able to use my previous response to bring attention to this important issue. If you need any further assistance, please let me know.


So, all-in-all, we thought that “Pâté à la Rothschild” would be a suitable title for our refined caramelized onion and mushroom spread.

Our recipe is indeed very classy, refined, and elegant, with its hint of good old kosher brandy and the addition of … drum roll … white truffle oil (and, yes, you’re definitely allowed to use black truffle oil and most certainly slivers and pieces of real truffles instead). Truffle oil is expensive but nowhere near as expensive as real truffles, although the taste is similar. It also complements the caramelized onions and mushrooms marvelously. The icing on this cake is a leaf of gold — a first in my life as a cook! Enjoy!

Vegan “Mock Chopped Liver” Or Caramelized Onion-Roasted Mushroom Pâté à la Rothschild

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Which Mushroom to Choose

You don’t have to stick to cremini, portobello, shiitake, or button mushrooms. Get whatever wild mushrooms your local farmer‘s market has that day. The only reason to stick to these farmed mushrooms is kosher considerations, the fact that they are generally infestation free.

If you have the means, instead of using truffle oil, consider using fresh truffles for a stronger truffle flavor.

Caramelizing Onions

This step will need a lot of olive oil and will take a while. Maybe as much as an hour. But the result is worthwhile. Just stick to your pan and constantly scrape the bottom of it. If you are impatient, this recipe is not for you. The guys over at Serious Eats have tried various methods (pressure cooker, baking soda, etc.) to speed up the process of caramelizing onions but to no avail. To quote them: “Recipes that promise caramelized onions in 10, 15, or 25 minutes should be approached with extreme caution.”26 So, for best results, there’s only one way to caramelize onions, and that’s the traditional one — low and slow. It’ll take an hour.


Best prepared at least one day ahead of serving:

  • Olive oil
  • 100g toasted walnuts, very finely chopped (almonds or pecans on Rosh Hashanah)
  • 1 kg yellow onions, thoroughly caramelized
  • 600g cremini, portobello, shiitake or button mushrooms 
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1+2 shots (2.3 US fl oz / 66.6 ml) 10-year-old kosher Slivovitz (plum brandy) from Jelinek flambéed (or any cognac or brandy of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon of MSG (outside of Passover use 1 tablespoon soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon of truffle oil
  • (3 tablespoons water if your blender isn’t powerful enough)
  • Fresh or dried thyme
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • iodine-free salt (like kosher salt)
  • truffle slivers (optional for presentation)
  • edible gold leaf (optional for presentation)


  1. Delicately toast the nuts in a pan if you haven’t done so yet. Let them cool off.
  2. Slice up the onions and thoroughly caramelize them. This will take about an hour to an hour and a half. Do not burn them. Add more oil if it gets too dry. Deglaze with the brandy when necessary. And continuously scrape the bottom of the pan.
  3. Roast the mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F (preferably in a hot-air fan oven). Tear the mushrooms into small bite-size pieces or chop them roughly. Put all the mushrooms in a bowl and toss liberally with olive oil, a little bit of thyme, salt, and pepper. Place the mushrooms on a large cookie sheet and pop them into the oven for 15 to 30 minutes or until they are condensed, shriveled, and well-roasted.
  4. Put the nuts into the large bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Add the rest of the ingredients and purée finely. Taste for salt and pepper.
  5. Chill and let it settle well overnight if possible.
  6. For the rustic and traditional vegetarian way, set it out in a 1:1 ratio of roughly chopped hard-boiled eggs and the mock chopped liver mushroom pâté. For the Rothschilds’ way, leave out the eggs and place a sliver or two of black truffle, as well as a leaf of gold on top.
  7. Serve with a good earthy red wine, or more unexpectedly, with a Viennese Grüner Veltliner, or, especially in summer, with some icy glasses of rosé like star blogger David Lebovitz.

This should keep three days in the fridge and up to three months in the freezer.


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  1. The Hirshon Ultimate Chopped Liver With Gribenes – געהאַקט לעבער מיט גריבענעס (August 26, 2020), Jonathan Hirshon. Link:
  2. Tori Avey “The great foie gras debate” link:’t%20realize,eventually%20adopted%20by%20the%20Jews.
  3. See Joan Nathan “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France Book Depository link:
  4. Eileen Lavine adds: 

    “Today, the largest American producer of foie gras is Hudson Valley Farms in Ferndale, New York, founded in 1990 by Michael Ginor, a Seattle native and Brandeis graduate who spent two years with the Israel Defense Forces, and Izzy Yanay, who once managed Israel’s biggest foie gras farm. Their Moulard ducks, a crossbreed between a Muscovy male and a Pekin female, are bred with cage-free methods and fed by workers inserting corn by hand through a plastic tube two or three times a day for just a few seconds. Ginor responds to attacks by animal-rights activists by maintaining that this method of force-feeding “is more gentle, more caring and most humane. We do minimal damage to the ducks.” But it isn’t cheap: A one-and-a-half pound portion of fresh foie gras costs $89. None of the duck goes to waste—products on sale include duck breast or magret, duck legs to make confit, duck bones for stock and duck innards sold mostly to Asian buyers. To cater to Jewish customers, the company hopes to offer a kosher foie gras in the future.”

    Eileen Lavine, “Foie Gras: The Indelicate Delicacy”
    (Moment, September 3rd, 2019) Link:

  5. Rabbi Ari Enkin, “Tzaar Baalei Chaim: Foie Gras and Veal” and Wikipedia “Tza’ar ba’alei chayim” article, link:
  6. Wikipedia link:
  7. Eileen Lavine, “Foie Gras: The Indelicate Delicacy”
    (Moment, September 3rd, 2019) Link:
  8. Wikipedia article link:
  9. See Chef Dan Barber in this TED video (link:)
  10. See the “The Vilna Vegetarian Cookbook” by Fania Lewando with a foreword by Joan Nathan. Link:
  11. Ratner’s dairy menu on the website of the Culinary Institute of America. Link:
  12. Wikipedia link:
  13. Jewish Veg link:
  14. Behemla link:
  15. Isaac Bashevis Singer Wikipedia link:
  16. See this New York Times article: “I.B. Singer’s New York: Fading, Yes, but Still Here” by Joseph Berger (July 26, 1991) link:
  17. Wikipedia Links for Shmuel Yosef Agnon (, Franz Kafka (, Natalie Portman (, Spock (, and Leonard Nemoy (
  18. David Lebovitz “Faux Gras: vegetarian foie gras” link: This recipe was adapted from Rebecca Leffler’s book “Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic” (Book depository link: ).
  19. See my post “Beef/Steak Tartare: Sigmund Freud’s Breakfast, and Favorite Dish of Claude Lanzmann and Thomas Bernhard #cannibals #freudianbrunch” link:
  20. Robert Sternberg “Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet Approach to Jewish Cooking” link:
  21. Vienna exhibit explores persistence of conspiracy theories around the Rothschilds – Jewish Museum examines why the banking dynasty continues to be blamed for many of the world’s ills and how the family name became a codeword used by antisemites” By Blaise Gauquelin and Eva Wackenreuther. (29 April 2022) link:
  22. Wikipedia link:
  23. Palais Rothschild. Wikipedia link:
  24. Stones of Remembrance” Link:
  25. The artificially intelligent content creator, whose name is short for “Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer,” was released two months ago by OpenAI, one of the country’s most influential artificial-intelligence research laboratories. Link:
  26. Serious Eats link:
Nino Shaya Weiss
Greetings, I am Nino Shaye Weiss, an unbridled foodnik kibbitzing (aka blogging) from Vienna, a place steeped in history and culture. The city of music and dreams, once loved and hated by Sigmund Freud, has been home to many celebrated Jewish figures, including Theodor Herzl, Gustav Mahler, Viktor Frankl, Martin Buber, Stefan Zweig, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schoenberg, and Erich von Stroheim, among others. In my blog, I endeavor to pay tribute to these great figures as well as to the anonymous Jew of pre-Shoah Jewish Vienna by delving into memory's kitchen and celebrating their once-rich and diverse cuisine, now lost forever. From Italian and Hungarian influences to Bohemian and Galician, I explore the eclectic flavors and unique stories of this previously vibrant culinary tradition, often with a Freudian twist. Join me in my virtual kitchen as I offer a culinary armchair therapy for a fictional restaurant, and discover the delicious world of Jewish Viennese food…

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