Monday, July 2, 2007

Poached Moulard Duck Foie Gras au Torchon with Pickled Cherries

When we last spoke, I had just put the deveined foie in the fridge for a 24-hour marinating session. After it had marinated in the mixture of salts, pepper and sugar, I removed it from the refrigerator. Then, using a piece of parchment paper, I remolded it into more of a log-ish shape (I'm so technical with my cooking lingo) so that I could wrap it in cheesecloth for the next step:

I rolled the foie in the cheesecloth, tied both ends tightly and added more twine ties along the foie to help it hold its shape during poaching. The French Laundry Cookbook says you've wrapped it properly if some of the fat begins to ooze out of the cheesecloth. Guess I did it right after all:

While I was getting all this ready, I set a pot of chicken stock on the stove to simmer so that I could be ready to poach as soon as the foie was wrapped. Here's a shot of the foie being poached:

After poaching, it went into a lovely ice bath:

During this part of the process, the foie lost a little bit of volume (you should've seen the duck fat floating in the stockpot after I took it out), so I took it out of the ice bath and compressed it in a thin dish towel, wrapped it nice and tight and tied those ends even tighter:

Remember how I thought deveining was going to be tricky, but ended up loving it? Little did I know there was going to be some geometry and engineering and stuff in this final step. I had to find a way to HANG the foie in my refrigerator for the next 24 hours. Most of you know from previous photos on this blog, that my fridge is usually pretty organized and sparse, save for the ingredients I'm currently using. Still, trying to figure out which shelves to move and which ones to take out, and where was I going to put all the stuff on those shelves... I need a PhD or something. Nevertheless, I figured it out (I'll take that honorary doctorate now, thanks, all you fans from Harvard) and managed to hang this little sucker with relatively little fanfare:

That photo looks a little depressing doesn't it? The foie is listing to one side. There's a single light in the back corner. He's in an embarassing stripey dishtowel. It almost feels like a John Turturro scene in a Coen Brothers film. How sad. Sorry, foie.

I made the pickled cherries next, and this was a breeze, mostly because I decided after all that deveining, wrapping, poaching, rewrapping and hanging of the foie, I was going to opt out of pitting the cherries. The FL Cookbook didn't say I HAD to remove the pits. I swear. It said, "if you prefer your cherries pitted..." and then went on to offer a technique. But I DO NOT prefer my cherries pitted. Nosirreeeee.... I love them with the pits in. Yes I do. Because, let's face it, sometimes I am just lazy. I knew my parents wouldn't care one way or the other, so it was an easy decision to make. Even though I just labored on and on about it in this post. Sheesh. Are you even still reading? Wow, you are? Cool. So, here are the cherries before:

I put them in a saucepan with red wine vinegar, water and sugar:

I brought it up to a simmer, then cut the heat and let the cherries sit in the pickling brine until they had cooled to room temperature.

Right before plating, I made some brioche croutons out of brioche I bought at Balducci's. I also tossed a little baby arugula and mint with a touch of olive oil and topped each portion with some gray salt and white pepper. Last, but certainly not least, I removed the foie gras from all its wrappings, removed the gray, oxidized portion of the foie and cut it into three-quarter inch slices.

Here's the final plating:

My dad was very skeptical of this dish from the outset. Not to say that he's not culinarily adventurous, because he's really not that picky an eater. We each took a bite of the foie on its own as our first bite. Dad's response: "Well, that's certainly interesting." Mom took the tiniest bite EVER and did that "mom thing" of "mmmmmmm" while trying not to vomit.

Then, we put a little foie, cherry and the arugula/mint salad on a corner of the brioche crouton and took a bite. Dad's response: "Wow!" Mom loved it, too, and we just loved the fact that when eaten together, every element popped out in its own way on the palate, but they also complemented on another beautifully. If you need a clear illustration or explanation as to why Thomas Keller is who he is, look no further than this dish. Sweet, savory, rich, light, delicious, elegant, country... all in one. It's really a spectacular dish.

The night before my parents came for this lunch, they went to a party in their neighborhood and met a couple who lived nearby. My mom overheard them at the other end of the table saying something about "Napa" something or other. Turns out, they recently went to The French Laundry and had THIS VERY DISH. They raved about their experience, and the husband said he loved the pickled cherries from this dish, so I sent the extra cherries I made home with my parents to give to their neighbors (whose names I don't know, so if you're reading - Hi, people in Marty and George's old house! Hope you liked the cherries!).

Up Next: "Soup and Sandwich" -- Grilled Farmhouse Cheddar, Early Girl Tomato Consommé, and Butter-Fried Chips

Brands Used:
Foie Gras from DiBruno Brothers; Philadelphia, PA
Cherries from Twin Springs Fruit Farm
Arugula from TPSS Co-op
Mint from my neighbor's garden (thanks, Linda!)
Brioche from Balducci's

Music to Cook By: I did this dish over three days, so my iPod was on shuffle most of the time. However, in honor of this dish's ingredients, here is a list of songs and artists on my iPod involving ducks and cherries. Enjoy!

"Disco Duck" -- Rick Dees
"Rubber Ducky" -- Ernie
"Play That Funky Music White Boy" -- Wild Cherry
"Buffalo Stance" -- Neneh Cherry
"Cherry Pie" -- Warrant
"Cherry Tree" -- 10,000 Maniacs
"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" -- K.T. Tunstall
"Burning Up" -- Eagle Eye Cherry


shuna fish lydon said...

This is absolutely amazing. That you prepped the foie completely in your home amazes me. Zow.

Thomas de-veined foie on the pass almost every single day at TFL. If I learned nothing from this man, I learned how too treat foie gras. Your readers should know that it should remain very cold at all times-- he kept everything on ice (directly) in between steps for the torchon or butchering.

do you think you'll pickle cherries in the future for something else? They might go well with a rich cake, or ice cream...

The Foodist said...

Nice job!

Keep it up

Anonymous said...

Impressed as always. I think you could go toe to toe with Meg (of megnut fame) and Adam (of A.G. fame) during the next foie throwdown. Did you sear a piece for yourself as Ruhlman likes to advocate? I think the guy just owns stock in a smoke detector outfit.

I've yet to have a good foie experience. I've had torchon one time and I wasn't thrilled. It was served with spiced apple (kinda like pie seasoned). This recipe I thought sounded good in theory -but my thought was that maybe the cherries could easily overpower? Any thoughts?

Lastly, umm...Warrant? I let the Dancing with the Stars thing go by with nary a peep, but Warrant? Oh dear.

Unknown said...

Sadly, I think I have even more respect knowing you're willing to admit "Cherry Pie" is on your iPod....

Wow. Looks amazing and sounds like it was well worth all the effort, and glad that the parents liked it!

pdxblogmommy said...

Brava! I can just see your parents sitting in front of this beautiful creation. I know PRECISELY what your mom looked like as she took her bite.

I am impressed as always and SO wish I could be there to share in every way.

Disco Duck...too damn funny.

Unknown said...

That sure don't look like no diner food girl! Nice job! You could have so easily turned it into a miserable lump of protein swimming in a sea of fat (I did this once a long time ago in the oven.)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! The foie looked like it committed suicide in your refridgerator.

Anonymous said...

(waving) Hi Shuna! I was in your NYC knife-skills class. I would love those pickled cherries with any kind of pate or terrine, or with a creamy cheese. And I bet they could be made into an incredible relish for, say, cold chicken or ham.

Loving this blog -- it never occurred to me that one could, actually, for real, make a foie torchon at home. That is just so deeply cool.

Anonymous said...

I've been curious about this recipe. I usually like my foie gras pan fried but I might just give this torchon a try. Thanks for the inspiration!

Leslie-Anne said...

I love your music this time, so adorable!

Unknown said...

I've done it! I've got a torchon hanging in my fridge!

In the spirit of this blog, I just had to share. I'm a relative newbie who had the good fortune of being taken the The French Laundry last September by my wife for our anniversary (17 for those of you counting at home). I was completely inspired and have been making various things for the past year from TFL as well as Bouchon and a few other books.

At any rate, I decided to throw a party for some friends as an excuse to order a fois gras and celebrate a year of my culinary adventures.

If anyone is contemplating doing this dish - do it. It is pretty straight forward and despite the four day timeline, the individual parts are not that involved.

Thank you Carol for doing this blog and helping me with the confidence to try some of this stuff. It is so much easier knowing that someone else has tried it and having the benefit of their honest appraisal of the experience.


Anonymous said...

It is fun to read blogs about foie gras. It is my guilty pleasure at work and i am addicted. Yes, I am a chef, and I make at least one 1,000 gram torchon every week. We use Hudson Valley Grade B Foie, and the process we use is the actual process used by Thomas Keller at TFL. The process in his book is the classical and highly inefficient way of handling a product that costs $26 per pound! The liver needs to be broken down and thoroughly de-veined and all visible fat need be removed. A curing mixture that consists of kosher salt, ground white pepper, granulated sugar, and TCM is needed. TCM means tinted curing mixture, aka pink salt, aka sodium nitrite. The ratio for Kellers Foie Curing Mix is as follows: 45g kosher salt, 45g sugar, 5g ground white pepper, 5g TCM which gives you 100 g. Recipe as follows:
-1000g cleaned foie gras
-18g foie curing mix
-30g white port wine
-15g madeira wine
Thoroughly mix in a stainless steel container and cover tightly and refridgerate over night. Second day I take the cured liver and roll it in plastic wrap into an even cylinder about 4 inches in diameter and about 12-18 inches long. Each end gets twisted. I then take a teezer needle and puncture the plastic wrap whereever there are air bubbles, this releases air and forms it into a perfect cylinder. Each end of the plastic gets twisted again squeezing out all air pockets. The ends then get tied with butcher twine so the torchon remains very tight in the plactic wrap. I then wrap it again with a few more layers of plastic wrap. I take about 18 equal lengths of twine and tie them tightly around the torchon, beginning with 1 at each end, one in the center, and 1 in between each one until the torchon can be dropped onto the counter and it bounces from being so compressed. It then gets placed into a cry-o-vac bag and vaccuum sealed under medium pressure. It is refridgerated over night. On day 3, the bag gets dropped into a sous vide circulator bath at 62.5 degrees celcius for approximately 7 minutes. It is then placed directly into an ice bath to cool and stored under refridgeration for up to 3 weeks.

Anonymous said...

I just made this recipe, from the Bouchon cookbook (no pickled cherries, jsut delish Foie), and it turned out great. Made two batches, one a frozen 1/2 lobe, from a few months ago, and a whole lobe, fresh. Both turned out well, but when making the first one, the frozen half lobe, I did not keep it cold enough, and I now have foie fat in the terrine itself. Looks - 3; Taste - 10 +. Thanks for your explanations and pics. They helped me along the way. Enjoy and KEEP COOKING!