This Christmas, I decided to buy whole, raw foie gras and prepare it at home.
I'm going to skip the foie gras ethical debate because anyone who wants to has already informed themselves about the issue and because there are already plenty of resources on the 'net. I've read those resources too and, yes, I'm still choosing to buy and eat foie gras. Yes, I do my best to buy British meat and produce from farms with good welfare records and yes this is a contradiction to that, but I never claimed to be consistent or rational!
So, on to the foie gras!
Given that this is an English-language blog, I figured it might be handy to explain the various French terms commonly used to describe foie gras.
Buying Foie Gras
I bought our whole foie gras de canard from a stall at Borough Market several weeks before Christmas. Because it was best before dated for the 12th December, I popped it into the freezer until Christmas. The brand is Profuma, produced in Belgium and I paid £20 for 0.6 kilograms which is a very good price for extra (highest) quality, I believe.
Terrine de Foie Gras Mi-Cuit
- Separate the two lobes and remove all the veins. Ideally, you want to keep the lobes intact as much as possible, but I ended up breaking mine into large pieces to reach the veins. I allowed the liver to reach room temperature first, as I'd read that this makes the veins come out more easily.
- As you're deveining, drop each clean piece of liver into a bowl of salted ice-cold water.
- Leave the deveined liver in the cold water for 30-60 minutes.
- Drain the liver well and then marinate for several hours (see below for marinade recipe). I popped mine into the fridge for this.
- Preheat the oven to 90 °C.
- Drain the liver (though there's no need to wipe off any remaining marinade) and place into a non-stick baking pan.
- Cook in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Pick out the cooked pieces of liver, allowing as much of the melted fat to drip off as possible, and transfer them into your terrine dish, packing them down firmly.
As far more of the liver melted away into fat than I'd anticipated we switched to a much smaller dish. Ideally we needed one a touch smaller still, as there wasn't quite enough liver to reach to the rim and allow for the weight on top to properly press down.
- Once the terrine is filled, cover and place in the fridge with a heavy object on top to pack the liver more tightly into the container. Place a plate beneath the container to catch any additional fat that is pressed out.
- Leave the terrine in the fridge for 4 days before turning out and enjoying.
I based my cooking method very much on the steps and advice provided by CulinoTests here (in French), which take you through a recipe from Eric Léautey.
I was hugely nervous about deveining foie gras as I'd heard a fair few anecdotes about how difficult this is and how it's very easy to leave lots of veins behind in the liver.
I was directed by a friend to this instructions video (in French) which helped me devein successfully, though my liver was broken into more pieces than the instructor's when I'd finished! I've since found these helpful video instructions (also in French). The second video also goes on to cover how to make foie gras au torchon.
To my delight, I seem to have been successful in removing the vast majority of the veins; both Pete and I found just a single very tiny thread each in what we ate.
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (I used cider wine vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- a generous pinch of all spice
The end result was fantastic! That familiar, fantastically rich flavour, the rich and silky mouthfeel…
I'd already been advised that freezing shouldn't affect foie gras. Although I've never cooked it before, I've eaten a lot of it and the taste and texture seemed absolutely spot on to me. I'd freeze again in the future, though I'd probably devein first so I could divide and freeze in two or three portions.
I was disappointed with how very much of the initial liver weight and volume melted away into fat during the brief cooking. Apparently this isn't down to the quality of the foie gras and can't easily be predicted. I don't think I overcooked it since the pieces of liver still retained a pink colour inside.
The loss to fat means it's difficult to predict the volume of solid liver you'll end up with and therefore hard to pick the right terrine dish. I'm not sure how best to resolve that.
The silver lining is that I had a huge amount of foie gras fat left over, half of which has already been used for the most delicious roast potatoes we've enjoyed in a long while!