Whenever I get to taste a good foie gras in a French restaurant I will say "this is one of the reasons I cannot leave this country". And it is not a joke. So obviously it has to be one of the items on my future bistrot's menu. This week I realized that despite having six (!) books about foie gras, a couple of months experience in two 2-Michelin stars restaurants who are specialized on foie gras in all its variations, I have never prepared one myself. And I can't really count the one that I did at Ferrandi in 2006 (too much help from chef Sebastien...).
This week was a good opportunity to change that. I wanted to use my days off now to cook again more at home, focussed on my future own business, which means trying for the same product different recipes and finetune to "perfection". I had invited myself this week for dinner to my Grenoble-friends Allison and Paul who live now just outside of Paris, and obviously I offered to prepare the dinner, clearly indicating that they would be my guinea-pigs ("any time, Ulla, any time !"). I really miss cooking for friends at home and having dinner parties, as my small "lounge" isn't laid out for inviting more than one person for a cup of tea. But the kitchen is big enough and well equipped to cook and then "transfer" the food...
I decided that as a starter I would do a "duo de foie gras" for them. Two ways of foie gras.
Like this I could start to try what type of foie gras recipe I would use in the future, based on the complexity of the recipe and of course the reaction of my "guinea-pigs". And there was a very clear winner. In fact one of the foie gras was so good, that I would say it is the best foie gras I have ever eaten in my life. Better than in any restaurant. Allison and Paul loved it, and I also gave a sample to Katia, who has a lot of foie gras experience, and also for her it was the best foie gras she has ever eaten, to quote her "people will travel thousands of miles to eat that foie gras in your bistrot, .... and now give me the recipe !".
Here are the two ways I tried : foie gras mi-cuit au gros sel & foie gras en terrine
For both recipes you need to take out the veins of the liver first. This has to be done very carefully, without destroying the structure of the liver. Remove the liver 30 minutes before from the fridge, otherwise it will break. When it has room temperature unfold it and use the back of a spoon very delicately to first track down the vein structure and then also to remove the veins. It is a bit messy so for hygiene reasons it is also best to wear kitchen gloves.
Now the following procedure will be different, depending on the recipe. First, for "Ulla's-Bistrot-Foie Gras"
Foie gras mi-cuit au gros sel
Smoothen the surface of the foie gras, and bring back the two halfs together. Then roll them in thin bandage-tissue (the recipe said "gaze au rouleau" which I got in the pharmacy, which is a good story for itself : just try walking into a pharmacy and ask for "the biggest bandage they have", and then "no emergency, it is just for foie gras cooking". Funny reactions guaranteed !) into a cylinder shape. I also put the bandage in cognac before to add a little aroma...
Fill a bowl or cake mold with "gros sel" (coarse salt ?), place the foie gras on it, continue to cover everthing with gros sel until the foie gras is completely hidden by the salt, cover with film, and keep 24 hours in the fridge. Then take off the bandage and keep up to one week in the fridge (I doubt it will last that long though).
And that's it basically. So simple. The foie gras will be cooked by the salt. In fact it will be mi-cuit (half-cooked), with a perfect champagne-pink color and a texture like butter and the fullest authentic foie gras taste. Difficult to describe, but I do take orders as of now, so you can check yourself ;). Best with toasted dark rustic bread like for example Poilane, fleur de sel and a fruit&nut chutney.
Foie gras en terrine
This is the more typical method of cooking foie gras. For me the result was just o.k., nothing extraordinary compared to the one cooked by the salt.
After having taken the veins off, season the opened foie gras with salt, a little bit of sugar and spices that you like. I used "5 epices Chinois" which is a prepared powder mix of "anis etoile, cannelle, clou de girofle, fenouil and poivre de szechuan" (star anis, cinnamon, clove, fennel, Szechuan pepper). Bring back the two halfs into their original shape and season also from outside. Put the big half with the skin side down in a terrine, then add the smaller half on top, skin side up. Add some alcohol like Armagnac, Cognac, white port or white sweet bordeaux wine. Put the lid, film, and keep in the fridge over night. The spices and the wines will have time to pass their flavours on to the foie gras.
Cook the terrine at 120 degrees C for 50 minutes in a bain-marie. Core temperature should be 48 degrees when done. Take off the liquid grease, then place a carton and a weight on the terrine and store again 24 hours in the fridge, before unmolding.
Needs also to be served on warm toasted bread and with fleur de sel. Bon appetit.