16 Aug2008

foie1

What is foie gras, and why does it sometimes draw as much flak as eating veal? Before I do a post on the seared foie gras that I served at the “blogger’s dinner,” I thought I should do this introductory post on the raw ingredient. Foie gras, literally translated, is a “fatty liver,” either of a goose or a duck. Foie gras has been produced in France for decades if not centuries (but now produced in many countries, including Spain, the U.S. and even China). Geese or ducks are fed using a method called “gavage,” where a tube is used to keep their throats open during feeding, and many detractors have reached the conclusion that the method of feeding the ducks and geese is cruel and unusual punishment or treatment and as such is an evil ingredient that should be boycotted and avoided. In the U.S., a few cities hastily banned the sale of foie gras, but as with so many folks who choose to act on limited information, there is more to the story than animal rights activists would have you believe. I am not an expert, so I will simply guide you to those who are recognized experts with a few weblinks. Read more about it there if it interests you. But before you instantly start typing out a comment re: foie, arm yourself with facts.

Charlie Trotter, a well-known Chef and anti-foie proponent, was at the fulcrum of the Chicago city board’s decision to ban foie gras in that city in 2006. However, earlier this year, the ban was repealed when the city board was given a tour of a foie gras farm and the process of making the foie gras was explained. The explanation is best read here, in a pro-foie site, led by the lady who owns D’Artagnan, a U.S. producer of foie gras. They explain why you need to know a little bit more about the make-up of a goose or duck, how their throats work the gag reflex, the fact that the bird’s naturally tend to fatten up before a migratory flight, etc. In my opinion, the feeding is no “cruel-er” than the manner in which many other animals raised for our food are subjected to, but more on that on my post why I eat what I eat. If the feeding pipe bothers you, then buy organic and non-force fed geese or ethical foie, as described here. As for those who haven’t tasted foie gras, you may wish to peruse comments in this eGullet forum, and I would personally describe it as an extremely buttery liver with a near beef broth like flavor… And for a site that leads deeper into the wonderful world of foie, visit this one. For me, the bottom line is that it is a farmed animal, raised for human consumption. All parts of the animal are eventually eaten or used. I choose to eat meat and fish (besides fruits and vegetables) and I totally like my foie gras.

Now, back to the dinner. I had promised Katrina, and others that we would have an abundance of foie gras. But a trip to Terry’s a few days before the dinner was not very promising. Every single one of their frozen lobes looked positively horrific. This was a surprise to me, as I normally find good foie gras there, but perhaps I almost always serve it around the Christmas holidays, not mid year. What was really disturbing is that the foie looked like it had defrosted and had re-frozen, with ice crystals all over and a really unpalatable color. I decided not to buy any… The next day, at Santis, Forbes, I picked up one package of Rougie brand duck foie gras in the photo up top, on the left, and while not totally thrilled with it, it was a YEAR away from it’s expiry date and while pale, still looked pretty good. I also knew I could go back to Santis if it was terrible when cooked. But 500 grams didn’t seem like enough for 12, so I went to another branch of Santis in Rockwell a day later and picked up a second lobe of roughly 500 grams, on the right in the photo above. Now here you can clearly see the difference between a relatively new lobe (the right, packed less than 6-7 weeks before) and the old lobe of foie, on the left, packed many, many months before. Lesson learned? Check the packing dates and try to get lobes that look like the one on the right. Once they were cooked, I personally thought the fresher lobe was noticeably better, but I doubt that diners would have quibbled about the difference… I kept about 200 grams of foie for another meal, and used 800 grams for 12 dinner guests, or roughly 65 grams per person for a generous second appetizer…

 

COMMENTS:

  1. lucadong says:

    i’ve ordered foie gras from dean & deluca once, and it was a
    D’Artagnan; thanks for the updates and additional links.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 6:23 am

     
  2. estella says:

    i love foie gras a lot be it seared or included in some dishes….

    Aug 16, 2008 | 6:30 am

     
  3. Topster says:

    MM, I’m a certified foie gras lover, and honestly, I really don’t mind the noise about it’s supposed “cruel” production.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 10:42 am

     
  4. Sam says:

    MM. I’ve tried seared foie gras with a reduction of Philippine mango and port, finished with a teeny hint of pink peppercorns. I do not have the recipe, and now that your post reminded me of that sublime piece of decadence, I am inspired to attempt and do it myself, maybe this weekend. Thanks:)

    Aug 16, 2008 | 11:00 am

     
  5. Sam says:

    …and then, at the risk of incurring the ire of PETA, I assert my staunch belief in my position in the food chain. There goes….. no one seems to raise a peep when I eat grilled chicken feet and balut, so I guess I am doing fine with my carnivorous bent. No creed or faith will ever vanquish the longings of my palate! Andale!!

    Aug 16, 2008 | 11:04 am

     
  6. chrisb says:

    Excellent links,MM.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 11:41 am

     
  7. chrisb says:

    …incidentally, Rougie lists the shelf life of its restauration line of flash frozen foie gras at 9 months at a constant-18 centigrade.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 1:19 pm

     
  8. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    I am salivating!!!!! Haven’t had some in awhile….I hope I can find some here in Cebu.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 1:44 pm

     
  9. Apicio says:

    But I’d try saving the freezer burnt lobes into paté just to see whether it’s beyond redemption or not.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 7:07 pm

     
  10. honey says:

    how do you cook foiegras? the last time i cooked mine, it melted, so now i dont mind paying a premium in the restaurants.

    Aug 16, 2008 | 10:00 pm

     
  11. tarcs says:

    Dear MarketMan: a) First off, this is a love-note, in case the following points aren’t clear enough ; b)you probably don’t need any more validation but – thank you for sharing; c)we’re probably the same age – but since i’m having the longest childhood known to man – when I grow up, i want to be just like you (or marvin of burnt lumpia, whiever is easier); d) notting hill moment here – but i think given the chance, we can be best friends; e) in case you were, you don’t have to worry about dead bunnies on your door-step; f)) on second thought, on the remote chance that i did leave a dead bunnny on your doorstep, it would only be if you said (wrote)you wanted one to make into a stew; g) i was just going through the archives, advanced happy birthday on the 20th! h) back to a more interesting topic -me. i’ve been having dreams about chasing after a four legged lechon. i wonder why.

    Aug 17, 2008 | 3:16 am

     
  12. DH says:

    Hi

    I had the privilege of interviewing Chef Charlie Trotters a few years back and also had the opportunity to sit down with him at the famed Kitchen Table at his restaurant. I must say the dinner was truly divine and he was very nice, despite his reputation. He served foie gras, of course. I could still vividly remember the butter-like mouth feel of the foie gras he served before the interview.

    Wrote an article about the dinner and he ordered 1500 copies of the reprints for his press kit.

    DH

    Aug 17, 2008 | 8:12 am

     
  13. estella says:

    advance happy birthday, market man!

    Aug 17, 2008 | 8:22 am

     
  14. siopao says:

    Ooooh! Yum yum! The fattening of geese and ducks for their livers is a centuries old tradition tracing back to old Egytptian times.

    I for one am happy that this post hasn’t (yet?) turned out like the veal post

    @honey – foie gras is almost 100% fat so do not cook it for a long time lest it melt like butter… simply sear it until it develops some color and that’s it :)

    Aug 17, 2008 | 9:20 am

     
  15. Kristeen says:

    Hello…I had a chance to eat a homemade Foie gras when I went to France..my sister is married to a French chef and they used to own a restaurant in Lyon, France…It’s the most sophisticated food I have ever eaten in my life and it’s really really good..but you have to be carefull when you eat it..it has to be fresh…
    oh by the way..I Love your site..it’s one of my fave site this days.. I also love travelling and food shots…keep it up..Good Job!
    Kristeen X

    Aug 17, 2008 | 2:44 pm

     
  16. Katrina says:

    Foie gras is one of the (very few, but completely compelling) reasons I cannot give up meat. I do try to eat conscientiously, though, so I used to feel a twinge of guilt each time I indulged in it. So I can’t thank you enough for the additional information on foie production. Being guilt-free will make eating it that much more pleasurable! :-)

    Aug 18, 2008 | 12:32 am

     
  17. AleXena says:

    I was about to ask about foie gras being unethical to eat have I not read this thread.=)

    Seem to have the same view as SAM. Being carniverous is a choice one must make as it is by the law of nature that man has the tendency to eat meat=)

    Haven’t had the chance to eat foie gras. Maybe I’ll cross my bridge when the opportunity comes. But it looks mighty fine when cooked although I worry I wouldn’t like it coz it has a beefy taste.=P

    Aug 19, 2008 | 4:32 pm

     
  18. Ruth says:

    I was hesitant about eating foie gras for the longest time but my sisters insist i try it. so last weekend was the beginning of my love affair with foie gras. Although I wouldnt be looking forward eating it everyday, I definitely love it and would ask for more =)

    Aug 27, 2008 | 11:14 am

     
  19. Rudy Portugal says:

    Marketman,

    I have been an avid reader of your blog for long time. Thanks.
    By the way, have you tried foie gras from Quebec,Canada? More power to you!

    Sep 9, 2008 | 8:26 am

     
  20. Grace says:

    Once again you’ve been a great help MM. I love foie gras (pan fried one) but am also not happy with the how it was produced as what they say, so thanks to the informative sites that you posted.

    Sep 22, 2008 | 12:39 am

     
  21. Samuel says:

    Dear Marketman,

    I reached your forum by hazard I have to say and I was extremely pleased to read the various rich and instructive exchanges on it.
    Foie Gras is unfairly suffering from the lack of knowledge of its detractors indeed. For vegetarians, making luxury food out of an animal seems like provocation and I understand their point of view, but talking about cruelty and blaming people for eating foie gras is unacceptable !
    Should you have more questions about foie gras, I would be very pleased to answer you!

    I am just back from the Philippines and I have discovered that Philippinos can find everything they love in food in the pan seared foie gras : a crispy surface with gamy taste, an onctuous texture in the middle close to beancurd with still a gamy and very rich taste ! In addition, some natural components and minerals in it make them crazy about it ! it is what Japanese would call UMAMI !

    Nevertheless, it must be a good foie gras indeed and you have really picked the one ! The Flash freezing method of Rougié is blocking the cells of the liver at -50°C less than 1h after the slaughtering of the duck. Thus, you get in your kitchen a less than one our fresh foie gras when defrost correctly (ideally overnight in your fridge). Remember, if the foie gras is melting, it means a problem happened (too old, containing bacterias, frozen and not flash frozen, refrost and defrost, etc…)

    If you want to be sure to get a very nice slice of foie gras on a buffet for a reasonable price, I recommend you go to Mandarin Oriental Makati, they are starting (since friday 4th of Dec 2009) to have Rougié foie gras free flow !!!

    I would be so happy if you could contact me.

    Dec 8, 2009 | 12:21 am

     
  22. Marissa says:

    This is a very helpful post as hubby and I will be trying the foie gras buffet at Mandarin for our wedding anniversary. We’ve never tasted it before but I have friends who love it so I decided it is something we need to try.

    Jan 6, 2010 | 11:46 am

     
  23. Gerry Sudbury says:

    I have a holiday home in the Dordogne area of France and have eaten foie gras regularly there. In order to clear my conscience I have watched production methods and have never seen anything resembling cruelty. Duck farms abound in our region and the ducks and geese always look happy and healthy and roam free. The only problem I have is with visitors taking high moral ground based on ignorance. I spend time and energy educating them because I can’t bear to think that they miss out on this wonderful treat. I have just ordered my first raw foie from a local butcher in Surrey and will be making my first foie gras. I know that I could save leftovers in small kilner jars but am a little nervous of this. Can anyone tell me if it’s freezable? This is of course assuming that there will be left overs.

    Jan 29, 2010 | 6:45 pm

     
  24. Leonides Aranzamendez says:

    I seared 2 cuts from my 2.24 lb Fresh from D’Artagnan and it was awesome and delicious ! not bad for first attempt….Happy cooking….

    May 16, 2010 | 6:46 pm

     
 

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