Battle Foie Gras

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.

Table setting
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.

Unroll the foie
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.

David enjoys it
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
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.

The final bite
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!

18 thoughts on “Battle Foie Gras

  1. And, the cost of one of these lobes is NOT prohibitive! At least not for a party and friends of that…caliber. It looks great. I have encouraged my sister to get my husband and I a LOBE for Christmas (looks funny on a list), so that we can try it too! Thanks, Meg!

  2. The hot version has a crispy exterior and that warm melting inside that’s almost gelatinous (in a good way). The cold preparation is more like spreading a liver-flavored butter on toast. It melts on your tongue and is so smooth and creamy. And it spreads like a dream. But is a different experience than seared foie. I think I prefer the cold poached version, but every time I have seared foie gras, I think there can’t possibly be anything better.

  3. It was so much fun reading your entry and Adam’s… I’m not sure I have the patience (well, or the funds) to make my own torchon…so thanks for letting me live vicariously through you!

  4. Wow! I love your photos. Do you use a Digital SLR or just a regular point and shoot camera? I’m looking to improve my food photography skills- I run a specialty cake shop and I’m close to making the jump to an SLR to help improve the quality of our photos.

  5. Thanks, Anne! These photos were taken with a Nikon D70, which is a digital SLR. It’s an older model, they now have the D50 and the D100, but they’re similar. I love my D70 and highly recommend Nikon’s digital SLRs.

  6. i agree, your torchon reigns supreme. not a vein in sight! i’m surprised by your’s and adam’s blogs though that so ppl have tried foie gras.

  7. Never been to your site before, but if the letter is true then you should truly be ashamed. Ugly or pretty experiences with food; people appreicate the truth.

  8. Jcliff, have you ever been to AG before? Clearly he’s kidding!
    (The letter referred to by Jcliff.)

  9. Congratulations on making a difficult and time consuming item so well! By the way, I think you definitely beat AG.

  10. wow…very good, I cannot choose a winner. I love both your sites and since I found AG first my bias leans more toward him ( love the humor) but these are equally awe inspiring. Allez Cuisine

  11. I haven’t tried making foie gras as a torchon yet but I have ordered it whole and deveined it. It is pretty messy. I do still prefer it pan fried lightly and then topped with some sour cherry/fruit compote.

  12. Hey there Meg – great job on the foie. I used to make a grilled foie dish with french toasted brioche, warm maple syrup (from Maine) and oven roasted apples. To die for. Anything that is tart like cherries or tangerines, obviously goes best with the foie. The tartness breaks up the richness of it. Same exact concept with red wine and cheese. They balance perfectly.
    And just so everyone knows, the preparation Meg did here with the foie is quite extensive. Foie gras can be clean/deveined and used the same day. The most important thing is to clean the foie properly and shape it in a fashion (literally like Playdoh) where it cooks evenly throughout. Don’t sear or grill it too long though or it will melt like butter.

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