The old, and controversial ingredient. This delicacy comes to us from south-west France, particularly now from a region called Perigord, but it is a very old ingredient with records dating back to the Roman period.
Foie Gras is nothing more than the liver of a duck or a goose. In Mexico at least when you mention Foie Gras most people think of a pâté some sort of paste done with the liver and tasting much of liver, and you can even find these sort of pastes labeled as Foie Gras in some supermarkets. But this paste cannot even begin to approach the flavor and richness of a fresh untouched Foie Gras.
A normal duck of goose liver is a small sack containing some fat, but in order for it to become Foie Gras a special technique must be used to feed the animals. This is where all the controversy spins around. Gavage, as it is called, is a technique dating back to 2500 B.C. It uses a food paste fed forcibly to the animals in order to fatten them. The process is not pretty, in order to feed the animals a tube is inserted in their throats for a few seconds while the food is deposited, and this is done up to three times per day. Traditionally this tube is made out of metal, but more modern farms now use flexible tubes which are not as damaging to the animals. The ducks live for around three and a half months, which is a lot more than a regular chicken's three and a half weeks. However is only for the last month of their lives that this force feeding takes place. The rest of the time they spend in sheds just like chickens do.
The tradition of making Foie Gras in France is considered to be part of their protected cultural heritage, and as with a lot of other traditions its is not up to modern "standards" and is seen in many other parts as cruel and unethical. It however, has a taste that is very special, it is hard to describe how smoothly it melts in your mouth as it coats your tongue with all this buttery goodness. It is one of the truly unique foods that I have ever tasted.
Foie Gras is sold in different presentations, with the highest quality products being the fresh livers, down to fully cooked blocks. French law controls very strictly what each of the presentations should contain. There are thre main forms:
Foie Gras Entier, this is the whole liver which can be made of one or two lobes. It can be either Frais (fresh), Mi-Cuit (Partially Cooked), or Cuit (cooked).
Foie Gras, this is made of pieces of liver reassembled together.
Bloc de Foie Gras, this is a moulded, fully cooked block that must contain at least 98% Foie Gras. There are other presentations of these blocs which can contain a mix of duck and goose livers and its is this presentation that we usually find outside of France.
Finding Foie Gras is a different story, in France this dish is usually consumed in the winter and is not easy to find any other time except in the producing regions. Outside of France is hard to find the fresh presentations at any time. I was lucky to have found some Foie Gras Entier at the Frankfurt Kleinmarkthalle, an excellent market by the way, so I bought one lobe.
You can do a lot of things with the fresh Foie Gras, but I just love how it tastes when it is simply seared. As you would expect the fat content on it is very high, so you have to serve it in small portions and paired with something that helps cut through the fat. Something sweet and acidic. Gordon Ramsay has some excellent videos on recipes for seared Foie Gras, and I decided to give it a try, check out the video below for the process.
Foie Gras with Caramelized Apples
1 Lobe of Foie Gras
1 Tbs Sugar
2 Tbs Butter
1/8 C. Calvados
1 sprig Chopped Tarragon
Salt and pepper
For the Caramelized Apples
- Melt 1 Tbs Butter Over medium high heat
- Add the Apples and season to taste
- Add the sugar and caramelize
- Add the rest of the butter
- Add the Calvados and flambe
- Remove from the heat and add the tarragon
For the Foie Gras
- Heat a pan over high heat.
- Cut the Foie Gras into 4-5 pieces around 2 in. thick.
- Season the Foie Gras.
- Add the Foie Gras to the pan and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat if necessary and baste with the pan juices.
- Once its colored on both sides remove from the heat and let rest before slicing.