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Foie Gras

So, you might be asking, why a blog about such a controversial subject? Why not, food is food, be it steak, chicken breast or a fish filet. So let's just move forward and investigate one of the most popular French dishes in Haute Cuisine.

The large liver from a force-fed duck or goose is one of the greatest delicacies known  to epicureans. Until fairly recently, most foie gras was produced in France, but today  much comes from other countries, including the United States. The foie gras pro-  duced in this country generally is from ducks and weighs no more than two pounds.  The best quality duck liver is pale pink, firm, and has a pleasant, mild odor. Inferior  grades tend to shrink and melt during cooking and taste bitter.  Foie gras may be cut into slivers and sautéed, or cut into larger slices, like calves’  liver, and served with garnishes. I like to serve it cold in aspic. In my experience, all  foie gras should be served within 48 hours of preparing. If it is kept longer, wipe it  with a paper towel to remove liquid and fat, return it to the terrine, and cover it with  clear fat, preferably a mixture of duck or goose fat and butter. The liver should be  completely covered so that no air can get to it. Packed this way, it can be refrigerated  for several weeks. When served, the fat should be cleaned off and saved for sautéing  potatoes or adding to stews. The foie gras can then be sliced. 

What does Foie Gras mean?

Foie gras is French for "fatty liver." Before migration, waterfowl will gorge themselves to fatten their livers, which serve as caloric gas tanks to fuel their long flights. When ducks and geese were domesticated, farmers took advantage of this natural propensity and hand-fed them to recreate the tasty liver they found in the wild birds during migration.

Different Grades of Foie Gras

Foie gras is oval in shape, and composed of two bulbous lobes, one smaller than the other, and can weigh 1.5 to 2 pounds. This pinkish, creamy-colored liver is extremely delicate and must be cooked with care since all the fat can melt away easily with high or prolonged heat.

Livers are graded for quality; "A" livers are the top grade, and largest, firm to the touch, smooth in texture, with consistent color, and no blemishes (like blood spots). Top-quality livers will be shiny and smell sweet. Chefs will use Grade "A" foie gras for simple preparations like searing and sautéing, or for a classic terrine, where the whole liver is cooked in a porcelain terrine in a water bath, then chilled and served cold, in slices.

Grade "B" foie gras is smaller in size, a little softer in texture, flatter, and will have some blood or minor surface defects, and more prominent veins than "A" livers. This grade of foie gras is just as delicious as the top-quality livers but is more often used in preparations like mousse and terrine, where the blood content will melt away in cooking. Grade "B" foie gras can also be seared, but chefs usually insist on using the firmer, more aesthetically pleasing "A" livers for this purpose.

Grade "C" is only sporadically available and pales in comparison to both "A" and "B" foie gras. Chefs use the "C" livers to flavor and thicken sauces.

Preparations of Foie Gras

Sometimes the word “pâté” is mistakenly used synonymously with "foie gras." Pâté may refer to any ground meat that is slowly cooked in a mold and is not specific to foie gras. Pâté de campagne is a country-style, coarse pate made with pork and no foie gras at all.

Terrine of foie gras, whole foie gras, and foie gras entier all refer to the whole liver, deveined, cleaned, and cooked. Plain and simple, these are the purest forms of prepared foie gras. Basic ingredients such as salt, pepper, and a bit of Sauternes wine are all that is needed to create these recipes. Torchon is another pure foie gras preparation, named after the dish towel in which pieces of raw foie gras are wrapped before being poached in water, wine, or stock.

Mousse of foie gras, bloc of foie gras, puréed foie gras are less expensive ways to get that silky flavor of foie gras, because in these preparations, there is water or wine added, and the product is blended or emulsified and baked. Black truffles may be whipped into the creamy mousse for the ultimate in gilding the lily. Watch the ingredient list on these prepared products, as some manufacturers will add chicken, pork, or regular duck liver. Make sure you’re getting 100% foie gras!

Canned foie gras is hardly worth mentioning in the U.S. any longer since domestic, prepared products of high quality are widely available. But for years the only foie gras available in the U.S. was canned product imported from France, but it does not really do the liver justice. Canned foie gras must be cooked to an internal temperature of 212F degrees to be shelf-stable, and this compromises the texture and flavor.

How to prepare Foie Gras;

Seared Foie Gras Recipe

Start with the best quality Foie Gras.

For this recipe, you will need 4 slices of foie gras, about 2 oz. each.


1. First prepare the sauce (See suggestions below), and keep it warm while you cook the foie gras.

2. To Cook the Foie Gras... Lightly score the slices of foie gras on both sides, then season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear in a very hot, dry skillet for about 30 seconds on each side. Before serving, sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over each slice.

Sauces for Seared Foie Gras

You have a world of choices for a sauce to serve with foie gras. The most important thing to remember is that the fatty texture of foie gras is complemented with a balanced sauce containing both sweetness and acidity. Peaches, mango and pineapple all work well, but these are our favorites:

Simple Balsamic Reduction

Reduce 1/2 cup port and 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar by half, or to a syrupy consistency. Place slices of sautéed foie gras over mixed baby field greens, drizzle on port balsamic reduction, and serve.

Easy Apple

Heat 3/4 cup fresh, unsweetened applesauce (without cinnamon) with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Peel and slice 1 green apple. Sauté the slices in 1 tablespoon each butter and sugar until the sugar caramelizes. Spoon the applesauce onto a plate, add slices of sautéed foie gras, then top with apple slices.

Green Grape Sauce

Purée about 20 seedless green grapes with ½ cup sweet vermouth. Strain into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 1/2 cup. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of duck and veal demi-glace. Taste and adjust balance of acid or sweet, adding a touch of vinegar for acid, a touch of sugar for sweetness. Drizzle sauce over slices of sautéed foie gras. You may wish to slice several grapes in half and use them as a garnish for the plate.

If you happen to find yourself with an abundance of goose liver, you may want to try making a full terrine of goose liver pate. Presented in the following PDF's in both French and English!

aftouch-cuisine recipe Terrine de foie gras d'oie
Download PDF • 31KB

Foie Gras Terrine Recipe - Great British Chefs
Download PDF • 40KB

Looking to expand your food knowledge as a gourmand or professional cook? Why not join one of our Culinary Arts Certificate or Diploma Programs. Take your career to the next level!

Cheers, and have a great weekend!

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