By Wynter Holden
When I was a kid, my mom would sauté liver with onions and unconvincingly try to pass it off as steak. The funny part is, she tried to fake my dad out, too. He bought it. I didn't. Maybe it was my keen sense of smell, or the fact I was always suspicious of her cooking, but there's just something heavier and more pungent about liver. I always thought it tasted like red meat that had been cooked with iron railroad spikes so the metallic taste would leech into the flesh. Yuck.
Whenever I see leberkase listed on a German restaurant menu, I cringe. My high school German's a bit rusty (ok, it did come in handy, Mom), but I can translate that word, and it means "liver cheese." Why couldn't it be lieberkase, or "love cheese." That I'd eat, no matter what it was! I adore cheese, from the zing of sharp cheddar to the mild tanginess of Emmenthaler and the creaminess of ripe brie. But liver + cheese? How could that atrocity be allowed?
In fairness to Bavaria, I didn't know if leberkase was a literal translation of what goes into the dish. So, when I spied it on the menu at Zur Kate in Mesa, I figured I'd do my homework this time. Zur Kate's version is served with onions, so that's already strike one. Seems awfully reminiscent of my mom's fake steak.
The verdict: Leberkase is a smooth meatloaf made from veal liver and assorted pork products. Think if it as German Spam. It's served in thick slices as a dinner entree, or cut into thinner slices and piled on a sandwich like bologna (which I don't like either...even as a kid I knew it was just lips and, well you know).
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I'm relieved to hear that Bavarian Leberkase (the only kind I'll be trying anytime soon) is made with corned beef and bacon -- no liver! The Swiss, Austrian and German varieties all contain about 5% liver. I guess that really isn't too bad. At least the Germans did a better job of disguising it than my mom.