Foie Gras has a rich history. The ancient Egyptians developed the technique of gavage used to this day through periods of austerity in cuisine. To some people it seems that Foie Gras came full circle with the Jewish community having continued with the tradition after the Roman Empire disintegrated. There is no historical evidence for it, but there has been a large amount of speculation about whether in Ancient Egypt the Jewish slaves were the actual community to have produced the fattened livers from the newly domesticated fowl.
Duck and goose fat, and by default the fattened liver, of course makes for an excellent cooking medium in Kosher cooking.
“The goose is nothing, but man has made of it an instrument for the output of a marvelous product, a kind of living hothouse in which there grows the supreme fruit of gastronomy.’ Charles Gérard
I can remember where I was, what I was doing at that time and exactly how I had it, the first time I tried Foie Gras.
Less than a week into my training I tried this beautiful textured product.
It had been cleaned with great care and attention, wrapped up in muslin and lovingly cured with a mixture of sel rose and sugar.
A tiny sliver of the torchon on toasted brioche and a splash of lime gastrique and I was in heaven – hook, line and liver.
“I think that PETA…has chosen an easy target. It’s a luxury item that most people haven’t had. It’s expensive. It’s suspiciously French. It’s hard to pronounce. It just sounds bad, you know? You’re feeding a poor goose or duck more than it would ordinarily eat. It looks bad. They did those grainy films… It’s not like that. That’s not the way foie gras that he buys (Eric Ripert)or I ever bought or any responsible chef at any quality restaurant would buy: a distressed, unhappy animal is bad food…inarguably that kind of suffering and stress leads directly to the quality of food that we don’t want.” Anthony Bourdain (Washington City Paper)
So yesterday, after some promising from me and requests from a eager young chef, had us tasting the foie gras terrine that I had prepared on Sunday. I had promised Neil I would teach him how to clean and prepare the foie gras so off we went. With a little heart stopping moments on my behalf when the foie sat at room temperature a little longer than I would have liked, (but a large amount of concentration) he had prepared his first Foie Gras. A moment I believe should be a highlight of any chef’s career.
Even after that moment, he was understandably still very eager to try it again. So we took the second one and proceeded to make a pure version. Veins out, smaller pieces of the lobes soaking in milk seasoned liberally with saltpeter, three small moulds went into a very cool oven.
That was on the twenty-fourth of December. Today is Christmas and Foie Gras made an appearance on the laden lunch table. My grandmother at the age of eighty-two tasted two things that she has never had before: Duck and Foie Gras. She doesn’t think much of duck, but the Foie Gras is rather palatable in her opinion.
Every moment spent with Foie Gras on my plate is memorable, from that first moment, to a simple terrine with home-made bread during Christmas lunch.
Foie Gras Terrine
1 lobe of foie gras
Line a terrine, (or bread pan or oven proof mould) with plastic wrap, making sure there are no wrinkles that will leave indentations in your product. Leave extra on all sides to wrap over.
Allow the liver to soften slightly at room temperature and clean it carefully, removing as many of the veins as you can. Even the small ones can leave red markings after being cooked. Soak the cleaned liver in milk with about a teaspoon of saltpeter mixed in. After about three hours, strain off the milk and season the liver generously.
Pack tightly into you prepared dish and close the extra wrap over the top. Bake at 110 degrees celsius for 12 minutes. Put in fridge overnight to set.