04 Jan2007

foie1

Okay, let’s get on a Concord and shoot over to the other end of the food/cost spectrum. Following yesterday’s post on one peso pan de sals, I thought it would be jarring to head over to foie gras territory. The enlarged liver of a goose or duck (in this case, the latter), this near solid piece of fat is the stuff of culinary dreams. Oddly, I can’t seem to take most other livers in abundance such as a cow’s liver or chicken livers, but the allure, texture, reputation and ultimately taste of a terrific foie gras is, well, incredibly memorable. At something totally outrageous like PHP2,400 for a large (two-lobed) roughly 600 gram French sourced foie gras, that made about 12 nice sized (50 gram) starters, or PHP200 per guest, was this delicacy worth it? I thought so and it was certainly a lot cheaper than if I ordered it at a snazzy restaurant. The problem is, I pretty much screwed up the two attempts at foie gras this year…

I don’t cook this bundle of fat too often, maybe once or twice around the holidays or for a special birthday or anniversary. So it’s like I am preparing it for the first time every time I get it. I bought two large lobes at Terry’s Selection on Pasong Tamo. The first problem is de-veining the liver, then you have to remember to soak it overnight in milk to remove some of the blood particles and potential bitterness. Then you have to keep it cold, slice it foie2thickly (not too thin please!) then throw it in a searing hot pan and voila! Perfection! Or so I always thought. The first problem is the quality of foie to begin with. The best foies are reputedly from France, though the reality is much of what is commercially available today were actually from force-fed Eastern European domiciled geese or ducks, and the packaging is nebulous. Vendors always say it is from France but can’t guarantee it wasn’t first a resident elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Horrors, even more shocking, is that there is a LOT of foie coming out of Southern China, or at least there was, until the whole bird-flu brouhaha. Next, you have to worry about how the foie was stored in the transport to Asia and while it was waiting for a sucker like me to buy it at PHP4,000 a kilo.

Actually, most chefs love this ingredient because it is relatively easy to prep and cook and they get a nice mark-up on it. The first time I served it last December as a starter, I nearly had a five-alarm smoke alert as the kitchen and my crew were nearly choked to death by the fumes! At that time, I didn’t get a nice crust to my foie and it was a bit too buttery soft…I thought as a result of an overly hot pan and too warm foie to begin with. Never mind the looks, however, it still tasted great. And I paired it with a mangosteen jam and brandy sauce and served it with buttercake biscocho from Vargas. Let’s just say it was a bit over the top, but delicious nonetheless. But a few weeks later I made a second attempt at the foie and started out with a colder liver and thought things would be fine. The result was better than the first but still nowhere near restaurant quality. That is, until someone told me, I should have dredged the pieces in some flour before throwing them onto a hot pan. Darn! I have to remember that the next time I try cooking this incredible ingredient. The second time around, I served the foie with some diced green apples sautéed in butter. The mangosteen and brandy jam version was better. If you have any advice on cooking this, please leave a comment here…I will use it the next time I cook foie…in a year or so!

 

COMMENTS:

  1. tulip says:

    We usually use a little sugar or French sweet wine to cut on bitterness and add some spice and salt, flour it, cook the whole lobe on a very hot non stick pan.It is just natural to have a very smoky kitchen while cooking it. We only cut it in portions when it’s about to be served right away and is put in the oven for few more minute/s of cooking. Got the technique somewhere in the internet.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 4:00 pm

     
  2. joey says:

    Thanks for posting this MM! I have long wanted to prepare this being a lover of foie gras myself…but, as you mentioned, it is quite a pricy thing to “experiment” on. Thanks for the tips…this may be one of my food resolutions for this year :) I have a chef friend who has offered to teach me…if we do have a foie session I will defnitely let you know what happened :)

    Jan 4, 2007 | 5:18 pm

     
  3. Mitch says:

    The best one I had was with calvados and sliced apples at Le Grand Cafe. It was way beyond my budget but it was worth it – As in after the salad and appetizer I had to skip the main course ! Hahaha. Main course was eaten later at the food court of Gallerie L.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 5:37 pm

     
  4. Juls says:

    You’re right with a light dredging in flour. I mix a little Grand Marnier with the apples to add more depth in its flavor.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 5:55 pm

     
  5. gonzo says:

    Hmm, i think i like the pan de sal post better, hehe. Foie gras is really just fat, and as any food person knows, fat is where all the flavour comes from. I’ll take a couple of bites at a party if there’s enough champers in my system but given the sheer unhealthiness of foie, i doubt i would ever want to prepare it myself. Price isn’t the issue at this point; it’s more like: all that pure, smooth, creamy fat sliding down your throat and into your arteries just doesn’t do it for me. it tastes good, but not that good to justify the dangers to one’s health.

    And then i went to a farm in France a few years ago, and once you’ve seen the assembly line of forcefeeding contraptions, set up like medieval torture devices, used on the ducks/geese in order to get their livers swollen and inflamed eventually, your appetite for foie tends to decrease somewhat, frankly.

    I remember as we entered the barn, all the birds faced the other way in unison, and all went to cower in the corner of the pen.. and i swore i saw the fear in their eyes.

    So, hate to be a party pooper but there are many good things in life that don’t require animals to be subjected to such a level of suffering.

    And yes, i do think fur is murder too (K.J. ba?). Killing an animal for food is one thing, but killing an animal for the vagaries of fashion is quite another.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 8:53 pm

     
  6. Marketman says:

    gonzo, I have to agree with you on the torture for the most part, but it is useful to point out that most of the fur in commercial coats comes from farm raised animals (minks, rabbits, etc.)so to me would be no different than eating blinded chickens, penned veal, or farm-raised fish… Or to take it further, the leather in my shoes or belts, wallets, agendas, briefcases, etc. But I do see your point of view as well…

    Jan 4, 2007 | 10:14 pm

     
  7. tulip says:

    Fact is birds dont have gag reflex and they actually do force feed their selves during migratory season. They have specialized organ/s capable of storing the excess food. Experiments/further observations and study of it points out that what humans considered torture/cruelty is but natural to most avians especially ducks/goose. It will be a long interesting detailed discussion while having foie gras for dinner perhaps.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 11:20 pm

     
  8. gonzo says:

    MM, i’m no PETA activist by any stretch of the imagination but i do have a bit of a problem with killing for fashion (farm-raised or wild) as opposed to killing for food. Somehow it just doesn’t seem right. (Presumably the cows have been killed for their meat and then the hides made into leather? But to kill minks because some bimbo…i shouldn’t get started, hehe)

    But then again, maybe i’m a bit weird; I never liked hunting, or handling guns, or fast cars, or action movies (I tend to avoid films with explosions, gunshots, car chases, or special effects…yawn.) Most sports bore me to tears (ESPN for instance is torture). And I’m straight.

    Tulip, i doubt if ducks and geese voluntarily forcefeed themselves to get their livers sickly and inflamed (otherwise why the need for forcefeeding equipment?). But you’re right,interesting dinner conversation, esp when fuelled by a bottle or three, hee hee.

    Jan 4, 2007 | 11:52 pm

     
  9. sister says:

    Try to purchase medium size foie gras, they have less of a tendency to melt away. Hudson Valley or D’Artagnan is usually what is available in NYC. Cut even slabs of it about a scant 3/4″ thick, score wide surface lightly in a small diamond pattern with the tip of your knife no deeper than 1/8″ to prevent excessive curling up when cooking. Keep slices very cold in a pan nestled in ice. You may want to experiment with different frying pans to see which one works best for a quick searing job. Till next Christmas then…

    Jan 5, 2007 | 12:44 am

     
  10. Maria Clara says:

    Totally agree with Sister scoring is a key element in keeping their shape and even thickness. Always use a fresh pan for a new batch of searing and the pan should be hot but not too hot to burn like a charcoal color but give it a seared/caramelized look. Never reuse pan unless you thoroughly clean and dry it. Ensure also that you have a good ventilation electric fan helps in moving smoke out of the area and wide open all your windows. Any tart fruits go well with foie gras, they cut through its richness. Once I had it with grilled chopped pineapple and little dab of balsamic vinegar it was so delicious.

    Jan 5, 2007 | 2:02 am

     
  11. bethp says:

    During special dinners here, one of the first course we love to serve is foie gras on white asparagus. This idea actually came from a famous restaurant here. The asparagus are cut into small pcs. preferably an inch long, then sauteed in butter,pepper and a bit of salt until tender, then while still hot the very thin slices of foie gras were spread over the top of the asparagus.It needs a very very thin (paper thin) slices of foie gras coz you dont cook it anymore and I an electric meat slicer will do the job.

    Jan 5, 2007 | 7:14 am

     
  12. Marketman says:

    beth, that sounds like a wonderful way to prepare the foie! And sometimes we get white asparagus here as well! Gosh, its been a while since you’ve left a comment, hope all is well in your neck of the woods… All the other suggestions re: some grand marnier, the pineapples and balsamic…all sound terrific. Gonzo, no problem at all…as I said earlier, I actually agree with a lot of what you’re saying…I just do like my foie every once in a while…

    Jan 5, 2007 | 7:56 am

     
  13. Mila says:

    I wonder if I should even bring this up, but if this causes any future controversy, mea culpa. There’s someone who sells foie (terrine and smoked), and she was mentioned in Lori’s blog (and someone we both know has her contacts in the food directory she shared). Could you ask her for contacts to buy French liver? That way, you’d be assured of a quality “lobe” and not worry that it was some bug-ridden Chinese quacker.

    Jan 5, 2007 | 11:14 am

     
  14. bethp says:

    Hi MM, I’m more than fine,thanks for asking. You don’t hear from me that often but I’m still here,reading your new posts everyday, it’s a sickness already…And yeah I can’t help it, I really really love fresh foie gras or pate de foie gras and everything with foie on it. =))

    Jan 5, 2007 | 4:50 pm

     
  15. sister says:

    Foie gras is graded. Look for “A”, “B goes into restaurant terrines and “C” are sold to make canned pates.
    Try gently cooking the slices in a medium hot teflon pan, until only lightly golden brown, it doesn’t have to look like barbecue.

    Jan 5, 2007 | 10:26 pm

     
  16. fried-neurons says:

    PHP 2400 for 600 grams… that’s way cheaper than it is here in the US…

    Jan 5, 2007 | 11:18 pm

     
  17. MRJP says:

    Is it an actual duck liver in the photo above? That big???

    Jan 6, 2007 | 12:55 am

     
  18. Ted says:

    This is a food blog not an SPCA blog, so PLEASE let’s not get into any other discussion about how we satisfy ourselves to the detriment of livestock ;-)

    Jan 6, 2007 | 4:04 am

     
  19. Marketman says:

    MRJP, and that is only the SMALL lobe of a two lobed duck liver…The other lobe is about 50% BIGGER still and both come from one duck!

    Jan 6, 2007 | 7:22 am

     
  20. Ted says:

    600grams is about 1lb. isn’t it? It costs between $45-60 here for the “A” grade of fresh ones. Some restaurants here in the bay area still serve them (Kuleto’s) for starters, but most have stopped, by 2012 no one will be serving them in Cali. So i still have 5 yrs to enjoy them.

    Jan 6, 2007 | 8:14 am

     
  21. chris says:

    Hi Marketman,

    Try Rougie’s flash frozen duck liver. I think it’s the best you can get here in Manila. Available where else but Santi’s. The supplier Mila mentioned that Lori wrote about is my catering partner, Farah Ylagan. Check out Lori’s post on it. By the way, I think duck foie gras is less delicate than Goose foie gras- easier to cook with less “shrinkage”. It just holds up better to cooking IMHO. And one more thing, Rougie has different types of foie gras, the flash-frozen ones are more expensive but definitely better. Sometimes you have to call santi’s in advance to order, unless you go to the main store at Yakal.

    Chris

    PS. with the way you entertain, maybe you should set up a wholesale account with werdenberg international!

    Jan 7, 2007 | 3:05 am

     
  22. JahRi says:

    Marketman, what type of wine would you recommend or would rather have with bubbly? Please let me know at your convenience.

    Thanks,

    JahRi

    Jan 7, 2007 | 9:14 am

     
  23. Marketman says:

    Jahri, I would prefer the foie with bubbly, Champagne or Cava, but I have to admit I am not a wine expert. I suspect it would go well with a sweeter white wine as well, since a classic pairing for the foie is some sweeter fruit… If other readers have an opinion on this, please leave a comment!

    Jan 7, 2007 | 9:24 am

     
  24. Ped Ant says:

    In a restaurant in Oiartzun, I was served pan-seared foie with apple-raisin sauce as well as raisin sauce which was brilliant.

    Jan 8, 2007 | 7:42 am

     
  25. trishlovesbread says:

    Sauternes would probably work with foie.

    Jan 8, 2007 | 1:17 pm

     
  26. Gigi Santiago says:

    MM — Amusing that you had a back to back feature on pandesal and foie. I remember a foodie friend raving about her family’s decadent breakfast of seared foie in pandesal… What a way to start the day! Breakfast of champions!

    Jan 8, 2007 | 6:43 pm

     
  27. veron says:

    I did a post on foie over at my website. I like quickly pan searing the foie so I soak it in cold water first to firm up the flesh. Split the two lobes and fish out the veins. Then slice it on a diagonal. It gets easier after a while.Freeze the remainder with a vacuum sealer.

    Jan 8, 2007 | 11:20 pm

     
  28. MRJP says:

    Holly molly!!! Poor ducks! Well, I think, I can also call myself “K.J.”. As tempting as it is to try these duck livers because of the readers’ and MM’s good review about it, (although I don’t eat any kind of livers) I may not try these at all. Not because I may not find it good, but my heart goes to the ducks who had to suffer having fatty livers! hu-hu-hu….

    Jan 11, 2007 | 2:16 pm

     
  29. stadaenko says:

    me and my wife were once in an ‘arranged’ dinner at El Circulo and we were served ‘3-way’ foie gras by their lady owner/chef (i think). i don’t know if this dish is on their menu but i think it’s a really nice & creative spin on the ‘3-way peking duck’. just read lorie’s blog and the recently featured ‘olive oil ice cream sandwich’ from El Cirkulo is likewise not on the menu.

    Anyway, the consistent texture of all 3 presentations of the foie gras set us up perfectly to distinctly experience all 3 luxurious flavors. I can’t remember how each one was called but i do recall 1 of them seeming deliberately ‘raw-er’ than the others since it had a paler color, like it was seared for a shorter period than usual. I, of course, started with this and it was just sublime. The succession of the next 2 styles/flavors just floored us, like the pacmnan setting us up with a left jab, a right jab, then a left upper cut finish.

    Reading this thread about the preparation & passion involved in foie gras engineering made me realize that i can only dream of me actually cooking one someday.

    Jahri, our host that evening wasn’t into wine at all and ordered fruit juices for everyone. umm…yipeee?… But i would’ve ordered a crisp new zealand sauvignon blanc.

    Jan 12, 2007 | 12:49 pm

     
  30. hatari says:

    This is my first post ever. I couldn’t resist jumping in seeing foie gras as the topic of discussion. I do a fair bit of cooking throughout the year but I pull out all the stops for our new year’s eve dinner…where foie gras has figured in a few times. I’ve tried frying the foie in a very hot and moderately hot pan, with and without flour. I’ve found that a moderately hot pan and dredging with flour works best but, as suggested by Maria Clara, be prepared to clean up or use a fresh pan in between..otherwise, you risk the black mess and bad flavor of burned flour residue. What I have tired is to ‘fry’ a slice of farmer’s bread (from Le Cour de France) in the remaining fat after frying a batch of foie and then to use this as part of the entire dish (as I don’t know where I can find good brioche). On my first attempt several years ago, someone gave me a jar of lingon berry jam and I found this (if my memory serves me right) was still the best accompaniment to the rich, fatty unctious foie. I just can’t remember who gave this to me or where it came from. I do, on my next attempt, want to try and replicate the balsamic and honey reduction which I had in Je suis Gourmand. The drink to accompany…bubbly, no question…..a dry cava, my favorite.

    Jan 28, 2007 | 12:09 pm

     
  31. Stagiaire says:

    The trick to getting a good sear on foie is to (1) slice them thick (3/4 to one inch), (2) score the livers, and salt them aggressively (if using kosher salt, less if rock salt, obviously) and (3) get a fry pan or a cast iron pan real hot. 45 seconds on each side should do the trick if you were able to get the pan hot enough. What you want to see is a crunchy exterior, warm interior and the center just about raw. Finish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and serve it with some caramelized apples or mangoes and you’re good to go.

    Remember to get the fat melted fat out of the pan right away to prevent it from burning. You can save it for later use, say in a foie emulsion (just like making hollandaise but replacing some of the butter with foie fat) or you can use the rendered fat as the fat in a vinaigrette for a salad of frisee et lardons…

    The reason why you couldn’t get a good sear on your foie is that you are using frozen foie. Doesn’t matter if it were flash frozed because somewhere along the way, they were probably thawed out and were refrozen slowly. It’s during the slow freezing that ice crystals for that destroy the cell walls within the liver. You end up with mushy foie. That’s just the way it is….

    Just to correct some of the statements in previous posts…

    – you don’t have to flour the foie to get a good crust.
    – french foie isn’t necessarily the best foie you can get. On average, foie from canada and HVFG and better. Most french foie gras producers produce for canneries (pates, etc.). Less than 5% of French foie production is grade A.
    – ducks and geese do gorge on food until their livers get engorged. that’s where they store fat for their winter migration. That’s how where the egyptians got the idea in the first place.

    Aug 16, 2007 | 12:16 pm

     
 

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