Monday, December 29, 2008

Le Foie Gras Au Sel

It is a tradition in my family to spend New Years Eve with friends and cook up a storm at our house just south of Orleans. Chateau La Touche has been an integral part of my upbringing and has fostered my love of food, cooking, wine, and eating. To borrow one of M.F.K Fisher’s lines; here at La Touche we live to eat and not eat to live, enjoying each others company over good wine and fantastic food. Every year our New Years Eve celebration is taken to another level, laughably intricate with a menu pushing ten courses of incredibly varied foods. There are a few staples like foie gras au sel which is just one of the trio of foie gras that will be served as a second course.

“Cooking” duck foie in salt is a dry curing method that highlights the smooth buttery texture and natural flavor without augmenting its form. My father and his friend Jean-Claude have long been declared the resident foie experts and usually treat us to a tasting of different foie recipes. Apart from the foie gras au sel, there will be a foie au porto cured in a dousing of aged port, a luxurious bath for one of the most heavenly foods imaginable. The final foie is the most traditional and common incarnation exported to other countries, cooked in a hot water bath to bring out the fat and create a thick two-toned terrine. I am not sure if one can purchase fresh duck foie in the States or on the internet though I am game to try.

To prepare a foie gras au sel at home, use a whole deveined duck foie rinsed in slightly salted cold water overnight. Pat the foie dry and season with crushed peppercorns and juniper berries. While the foie is resting, prepare a large bowl of grey sea salt seasoned with spices of your choice. We flavored our salt with wintry spices like nutmeg, allspice, clove, cinnamon, and Guinea peppercorns. After seasoning, wrap the foie in kitchen gauze or cheesecloth to avoid “burning” which results in unattractive brown spots and a bitter flavor. Place about a two cups of seasoned salt at the bottom of a ceramic French terrine or small casserole dish, nestle the foie comfortably, and cover with remaining salt. The foie should cook in its savory white nest for about eight hours at room temperature then promptly removed and served within three days. This is about as easy as making classic French foie gras goes and I highly recommend trying it at home. Like any other dish or food product, the home version is infinitely more rewarding and of course tastes better. As always, I encourage you to enjoy and share delicious food and home cooked meals with yourself and others!

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