A few weeks ago, I received an email offering me a free lobe of foie gras from Mirepoix USA. Mirepoix is an ecommerce website launched by a husband and wife team with a passion for fine food. The site features some of their favorite products, including foie gras, charcuterie, and truffle mushrooms. I accepted their offer and received a Hudson Valley Grade A Foie Gras the other day. Battle Foie Gras, my competition with Adam to make the best torchon using Thomas Keller's recipe from The French Laundry Cookbook, was underway. Allez cuisine!
Trust me when I tell you that deveining a foie gras (especially to chef Keller's exacting standards) is a time-consuming and fairly disgusting process. I chose not to photograph this stage of my labors because I want you, if you enjoy foie gras, to continue to enjoy foie gras. Sometimes, as they say, you don't want to see the sausage getting made. Devein I did, then I seasoned it. I molded it into a log and I rolled it tightly in cheesecloth. Then I rolled it even tighter. Then I enlisted my husband to help me roll it even tighter. I poached it in water, removed it, rolled it again (even tighter!) in a dish towel. Then I hung it in my fridge. That took four days.
Last night, my husband and I invited two friends to join us for dinner. Both had experienced foie gras only once and found it "super oily." The table was set.
The table awaits
Keller's recipe calls for using fresh sour cherries and pickling them quickly in vinegar. I'd planned to skip that step and substitute a sour cherry jam, but the market didn't have it. Luckily they did have a jar of sour cherries. So I mixed water, sugar, and vinegar with the cherries and brought it to a boil. Then I strained out the cherries and reduced the liquid by half until I had a lovely ruby-colored syrup. Mmm, this was nicer than a jam. It was time to begin. I unrolled the foie gras.
Unrolling the cheesecloth
The outside had turned brown, so I peeled off the discoloration, exposing the lovely pink interior.
Peeling the outside
I sliced and plated the foie gras, accompanied by the sour cherries, some baby lettuce, freshly toasted brioche, and a small mound of fleur de sel.
Ready to eat
We drank a lovely 1999 Cru D'Arche-Pugneau sauternes that our friends brought.
A former vegan savors his bite
My friend Adriana, a Princeton PhD candidate, translator, and foie gras novice had this to say after the meal:
I really didn't know what to expect when I took my first bite of the torchon. The texture was the first thing that hit me--it's so light, buttery and almost sweet. But then, as it slides down your throat, you're hit with the full, incomparable flavor and aroma of the foie gras. I preferred to prepare each bite individually; doing so encouraged me to eat slowly. I varied the brioche, cherry, salt and foie gras proportions and finally settled into my "bite": brioche with a small piece of cherry, a dab of salt, and a substantial slice of foie gras.
We ate and ate, with hardly a vein in sight. We toasted fresh brioche, we drizzled sour cherry reduction, we sprinkled fleur de sel. The wine and conversation flowed. Every morsel was consumed.
The remains of the foie
As I raised a bite to my mouth, I paused and realized something. The bite I was about to consume looked just like I remembered from The French Laundry. And it tasted that good.
A perfect bite
It was a magical meal with wonderful friends. As for the competition, well you can judge by the photos. I think it's clear: my cuisine reigns supreme!