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!

Battle bloody sleeve

Bloody sleeveYesterday I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the kitchen of Daniel Boulud's eponymous New York restaurant, Daniel. I got to make chicken wings with the man himself for a video a friend is producing. Stupidly, I chose not to wear whites, and thought street clothes would make the bit more "authentic" for the home cook. So I was standing there in a gray cashmere sweater and jeans (I did wear my clogs at least) with an apron tied around my waist. Daniel was demonstrating how to prep the wings, which involved sectioning the wing into three parts. WHACK! He came down hard with his chef's knife on the joint, and blood went flying. Flying right onto the sleeve of my sweater! Daniel was very gracious and tried to wipe it off with a dish towel, but that only smeared it around. We had a good laugh about it and my sweater is now at the cleaners. But I've learned my lesson (a lesson, incidentally, I'd already learned but chose to ignore) and next time, I'll be wearing whites. And standing clear of Daniel Boulud when he's wielding his knife and whacking at wings.

Making apple butter

I made Erin's apple butter before I went to Maine, but only had a chance to test my work the other night. (Inspired by a dish at Boston's Locke-Ober restaurant, I roasted and mashed a winter squash, then mixed it with some apple butter. They also add Calvados.) Mmm, this apple butter is delicious! I followed Erin's recipe closely, except when she called for a "fine mesh strainer." At first I tried my chinois, but that was actually too fine, and only the faintest apple juice emerged. I resorted to my less fine mesh strainer and that did the trick. I used a blend of locally-grown Jonamac and Empire apples, and I like to think that added depth to my butter. I can't wait try some of this on a sandwich. Great recipe, thanks Erin!

There's something that I call…

There's something that I call 'chicken guilt,' which is something that has chefs in restaurants making the chicken dish one of the best dishes on the menu because they feel guilty selling a chicken for $28. I've never heard of 'chicken guilt' before, but I love it! Of course, I never order chicken when I'm out because I think, "How good can that chicken be, even if it's $28?"