I remember my first foie gras.
I remember what it felt like to order it and have it delivered, prep it, make it, and eat it.
I remember how good foie gras tastes with lobster.
I remember how I humiliated one foie gras by making it look like it was being served at Hooters.
I remember how delicious it is, simply roasted with some thyme, garlic and apples.
And, I remember how good it is when someone else prepares it for you in ways you can't wait to attempt yourself the next time you have a dinner party.
It's amazing to me that in the span of one year, I could go from being totally afraid to touch (let alone devein) a foie gras, to being giddy with joy to make one and feast on it, unabashedly letting the juices drip down my chin. Always the lady, am I.
That's why I'm a little more than sad that this is the last foie dish I'm making as part of French Laundry at Home. Is it my last foie gras ever? Hell no. While it will be an indulgence from time to time, I plan on continuing to make and eat foie gras because it is phenomenal, and elicits full-body smiles of pleasure from people who eat it. There recently was talk of a foie gras ban in Maryland, and believe you me, I made phone calls, sent email, and generally bitched to every legislator I know to make sure it didn't happen. The bill to ban foie gras sales in or shipping to my fine state was withdrawn, so I'm a happy camper. I can't claim responsibility for single-handedly making it happen, but I'd like to believe that I contributed toward the good mojo.
So, after having made foie gras four or five times before this last one, how did this dish fare? Well, let's just say that even though I love me some umlauts, I've never been a fan of German wine... but this dish may have changed my mind. Let's get started, shall we?
Now, I know I bitch and moan when purveyors act like jerks, or stores don't carry what they say they carry, but let me take a moment here to sing the praises of D'Artagnan. I knew going into this project that I wanted to do everything I could to support local food purveyors, and buy from as many people in person as I could. Yet, I knew it would be impossible to do that with every ingredient. So, when I began ordering from D'Artagnan, little did I know I'd be in for such a treat. Their web site is my favorite kind of porn. Wild boar bacon. Duck sausage. Scottish hare. All things I either love, or have been dying to try. Go ahead and click around their site when you have time and order something you've never tried before. Have fun with it. Experiment. Try something new. And, if you need help or have questions, their staff is so amazing. Really. I just want to sweep them up in my arms and give them a hug until their guts burst from all my squoziness. They've been such a pleasure to work with through this entire project, and their food is top-notch. Everything I've ordered from them has been the highest quality, and they've got a customer for life in me.
Okay, okay, you get it. I love D'Artagnan (even though there are no umlauts in their name). Let's talk about the dish. It's a three-day process, but worth every cotton-pickin' and foie-poachin' minute.
I unwrapped that lovely piece of foie, rinsed it under cold water, pulled apart the lobes and removed the small globules of fat from the underside of the smaller lobe.
I mixed some kosher salt, pink salt, white pepper, and sugar together in a small bowl, then sprinkled both sides of both lobes with the mixture. I put the lobes into a ziploc bag and stored them in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, I wrapped both lobes, separately, in cheesecloth. I didn't wrap them overly tight -- just enough that they maintained their natural shape, but didn't have a whole lot of room to move around.
I put the lobes into a pot of Gerwürztraminer and water, ensuring that the liquid came up about halfway of the sides of the lobes of foie gras:
I gently raised the heat (low, to low-medium) until it got to 140 degrees. Then, I turned each lobe over and continued to heat the liquid until it had reached 170 degrees. I flipped the foie one more time, brought the heat up to 180, then turned off the flame and let the foie sit in the warm liquid for about five minutes. I removed the lobes, put them in another pot (room temperature) and poured the poaching liquid over them. I covered this new pot-au-foie (ha!) and refrigerated it overnight.
The next day, it looked like this when I took it out of the fridge:
I removed that solidified, yellow fat from the top (it was like picking candle wax off the surface), measured out a cup of the poaching liquid to make the jelly, and kept the foie in the clean liquid, returning it to the refrigerator until I was ready to serve it.
I had already soaked a sheet and a half of gelatin in cold water to soften it, and then put it in a bowl over a pot of hot water to dissolve it. I added the poaching liquid and kept whisking it until it was fully incorporated. I then put the bowl of to-be-jelly into the refrigerator for five hours, and wouldn't you know it? It never set. Didn't even come close. But guess what: I didn't care. Why? Because of this:
This is how I served it. Slices of foie (which I'd unwrapped from the cheesecloth just before serving) with grey salt and brioche croutons. I had some friends over for dinner that night, and after devouring an appetizer of roasted marrow (yum!) as they stood in the kitchen watching me cook, we moved to the dining room to stand around and feast on some foie before we sat down to enjoy the main course. And let me tell you, this was outstanding. Beyond compare. My new favorite foie preparation. If you're ever going to make foie for the first time, try it this way and you won't be sorry, I promise.
Foie gras is really rich, and I was skeptical that a sweet wine (even though it's not as sweet as a Sauternes) would just be too overpowering or competitive. I was happy to be proven wrong, because poaching it in Gewürztraminer was spot-on. Just the right amount of sweet to counterbalance the creaminess of the foie, but it's also a little bit tart (I think), so it brought out the best in the dish. I liked it both with the grey salt and without. We only had a few slices left over at the end of the night, so I wrapped them up tight, and when some friends stopped by the next day around lunchtime, we made foie gras sandwiches with the leftover brioche, slices of foie, and some mustard. It was completely decadent and indulgent, but that's one of the many reasons I love throwing myself into dishes like this. This one actually took very little time or skill or effort to do, but being able to master the art of foie gras, enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed, and then eat it as leftovers in a sandwich is something that a year ago I never would've imagined doing.
Foie gras may not be for everyone, but I loved every second of making this dish. I was bummed for about 3.2 seconds that the jelly didn't work, but as soon as I tasted the foie, my jelly incompetence just didn't matter anymore. Biting into the foie, on the brioche with a hint of crunch in the salt was a taste explosion in the mouth that even Willy Wonka couldn't top no matter how hard he (fictionally) tried. I guess I continue to be amazed and always grateful that just a few simple ingredients can provide such pleasure.
When I described to my friends the steps that went into making this dish, their responses ranged from "three days?" to "140 to 170 then 180 then out?" to "I'd never make it, but I'm sure glad you did." And that's another reason I love cooking food like this. It makes people happy -- me in making it, my friends as they eat it, and me again as I get to see them enjoying something I made. This dish is going into my dinner party rotation, and it's lodged in my memory banks as something really special. How awesome that my final foie dish for French Laundry at Home was this good. Whew!
Up Next: Roasted Guinea Fowl en Crèpinette de Byaldi with Pan Jus
Foie gras from D'Artagnan
Brioche from the TPSS Co-op
Mader 2006 Gerwürztraminer
Music to Cook By: Paul Simon; Graceland. I was talking with a friend the other day about musical firsts -- the first 45 we ever bought (Shaun Cassidy). The first LP (Heart). The first 8-track (Bee Gees' version of Sgt. Pepper). The first cassette ("A Chorus Line" soundtrack). And I remembered that the first CD I ever bought was Paul Simon's "Graceland" -- back when CDs were $21.99 each and came packaged and shelved in those really tall, skinny cardboard packages. I remember hating the song "You Can Call Me Al" but wanting the CD nonetheless because I knew I'd love every other song on it. And I did. And still do. I also took the time over the three days of making this dish to listen to all the NPR podcasts I'd amassed on my iPod. Now I'm like all smart and stuff.
Read my previous post: Pear Strudel with Chestnut Cream and Pear Chips
Thursday, March 20, 2008
I remember my first foie gras.