Foie gras

foie gras5

Foie gras

Foie gras makes a festive and fabulous start to a meal. The simplest and most traditional way to serve it is sliced on toasted bread at cocktail hour, accompanied by champagne or a sweet white wine from southwest France. Alternatively, the foie gras may be served at the table as a first course on a salad of tender leaves, or on its own accompanied by fruit or preserves, with toast on the side.

Foie gras — the liver of a fattened duck or goose — comes in many varieties, the finest being the bloc entier de foie gras, in which the seasoned foie is preserved whole with no additives. If possible, go for a fois gras entier mi-cuit, which is preserved with minimal heating and generally comes in a glass jar or terrine. This variety does not travel well, as it must be kept refrigerated, and may be difficult to find outside of France. Almost as flavorful is the foie gras entier that comes in a tin.

I would recommend avoiding products labeled pâté de foie gras or parfait de foie gras, as this indicates that the foie has been cut with other ingredients, most typically with liver of an unfattened fowl. (In France it is also possible to obtain foie gras cru — an entire lobe of uncooked fattened liver that must be sautéd before serving — but that is a dish in its own right that deserves a separate recipe.)

Which type of foie gras to choose, goose or duck? Traditionalists might go for goose, but personally I prefer duck, which is ever so slightly less rich in my view. Whichever you choose, chill the foie gras before serving, and slice it with a sharp knife (not serrated).

As for the bread, choose a variety that is dense enough to hold the foie, for example a baguette which may be sliced into small rounds. If using a larger type of bread, divide the slices in half or quarters before or after toasting. I recommend white bread because of its neutral flavor — other breads, such as rye, whole wheat or sour dough, tend to interfere with the sublime flavor of the foie.

foie gras4Foie gras on toast for cocktail hour

1 6-ounce (180 g.) jar or tin of foie gras entier
1/2 loaf of white bread, preferably a baguette
2-3 tbsp. fruit preserves
sprig of fresh basil or mint leaves for garnish
a chilled bottle of Champagne or a top-quality sweet white wine like Monbazillac or Sauternes

Refrigerate the foie gras until shortly before serving. To unmold, dip the unopened jar or tin into hot water for 10 seconds. Dry off and open. Heat a very sharp knife under hot running water, dry, and run the knife around the edge of the foie. Invert over a clean plate or cutting board, tap the bottom and, with the edge of your knife, help ease the foie out. This is sometimes difficult with a tin — if so, simply open the bottom with a can opener and push the foie out.

Place the foie back in the refrigerator while you toast the bread: Cut into small slices, toast a few, set in a baking tin, repeat until you have used all the bread. If serving at cocktail hour, count 3-4 little toasts per person. Now heat the oven to medium-low. Just before serving, place the baking tin in the oven to reheat the toast.

Remove the foie gras from the fridge and, using a heated sharp knife, cut into slices about 1/8 inch (1/3 cm) thick. You may have to cut the slices in half or in quarters in order to fit them onto the toast.

Remove the toast from the oven and cover each piece with a slice of foie gras. Simply set the foie on top of the toast — do not spread.

Arrange the canapés on a plate with the fruit preserves on the side and a sprig of fresh basil or mint (or both) for garnish. Add a little spoon so that guests may top their foie gras with the preserves if desired. In the photo above, I used preserves made of dark sour cherries (griottes in French). Other varieties that work well are fig, plum or quince.

Serve the canapés with chilled Champagne or a chilled fine sweet white from southwest France. Serves 8-10.

foie gras6Salade folle au foie gras

1 6-ounce (180 g.) jar or tin of foie gras entier
2-3 large handfuls of mixed tender salad leaves: arugula, baby chard, baby spinach, radicchio, or mesclun (a combination)
1 pound (220 g.) trimmed green beans
1 clove garlic, finely minced
10 mint leaves
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 tiny mirabelle plums or cherry tomatoes

Refrigerate the foie gras until shortly before serving. To unmold, dip the unopened jar or tin into hot water for 10 seconds. Dry off and open. Heat a very sharp knife under hot running water, dry, and run the knife around the edge of the foie. Invert over a clean plate or cutting board, tap the bottom and, with the edge of your knife, help ease the foie out. This is sometimes difficult with a tin — if so, simply open the bottom with a can opener and push the foie out.

Place the foie gras back in the fridge while you prepare the salad: Wash the tender leaves and spin dry. Cook the green beans in salted water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and plunge into ice-cold water (this preserves their bright green color).

In the bottom of a large salad bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and minced garlic to make a sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the greens on top of the sauce. Add the mint leaves, whole or roughly chopped. Slice the little plums or cherry tomatoes in half and add. Toss the salad. Distribute on individual plates.  Drain the beans, pat dry and place on top.

Now remove the foie gras from the fridge and, using a heated sharp knife, slice into small pieces. Distribute the pieces over the salad. (You may not need all of the foie gras. If you have some left over, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It will keep for a few days, and may be used for canapés at cocktail hour on another occasion.)

Serve the salad accompanied by a fine red wine, preferably a Bordeaux — which comes from the same region as the foie gras. Serves 8-10.

foie gras1Rondelles de foie gras aux figues

1 6-ounce (180 g.) jar or tin of foie gras entier
3 fresh figs
a few sprigs of fresh basil or mint leaves for garnish
small bowl of fleur de sel (fine sea salt)

This should be served as a first course on a festive occasion — Christmas or New Year’s, for example.

Refrigerate the foie gras until just before serving. To unmold, dip the unopened jar or tin into hot water for 10 seconds. Dry off and open. Heat a very sharp knife under hot running water, dry, and run the knife around the edge of the foie. Invert over a clean plate or cutting board, tap the bottom and, with the edge of your knife, help ease the foie out. This is sometimes difficult with a tin — if so, simply open the bottom with a can opener and push the foie out.

Using a heated sharp knife, slice the foie gras into six thick rounds. Place them on individual plates, two rounds per plate. Rinse the figs, cut off the stems and slice in quarters. Place four quarters on each plate. Add some basil and/or mint sprigs for garnish.

Serve accompanied by toasted white bread and a fine wine — Champagne, Bordeaux or a similar sturdy red, or a chilled sweet white from southwest France. Serves 3.


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3 Responses to Foie gras

  1. Kay says:

    Just finished reading your book…being of the same age I thoroughly related to the American experiences.
    I am so happy you & your daughter found one another….bravo!
    Loved this post as my French family is from SW France & Paris so foie gras is generally served as a first course w/ champagne so I had never tasted la salade folle. Une idee geniale…can’t wait to try it for a very special occasion.
    Thank you for your post & your book

  2. messagesftls says:

    One accompaniment that we really enjoy with foie gras is to create a Sauternes jello which is cut into mini-cubes and sits atop the sliced foie gras on a slice of toast. Divine!

    • Meg says:

      Thanks, that’s a great idea! In fact foie gras is often served at Paris restaurants accompanied by little wine-flavored jelly/jello cubes and a few leaves of lamb’s lettuce. If you’d like to share your recipe, please do. I’m sure other readers would appreciate it.

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