A particularly controversial product, raising ethical questions, foie gras is a liver from geese or ducks that have been force-fed to fatten them. Since these waterfowls do not possess a gag-reflex, tubes can be employed to pass food into their stomachs. This process, referred to as gavage, has a long history going back to Roman times, where geese were forced fed with dried figs to produce their iecur ficatum (fig-stuffed liver).
The result is, nevertheless, delicious.
One can find foie gras in the market in different forms. The liver in its full form (foie gras entier), a mechanically processed paste from different livers (bloc de foie gras) or pastes that contain additional fillers (mousse and parfait de foie gras). These might be fully cooked for preservation, partially cooked (mi-cuit) or raw (cru). If the aim is to eat it at its best, we recommend buying foie gras entier, cru and cooking at home (it’s incredibly effortless, see recipe below). If buying as a spread, we suggest buying foie gras entier, mi-cuit. It provides its freshest version possible, without the need to cook it.
Good mi-cuit is rich and buttery, high in umami and deeply flavoured. The texture should be soft and tender, not paste-like. Raw foie when cooked is soft as bone marrow and the caramelisation when seared yields intense savoury notes. Both pair well with sweet and dried fruit flavours.
We love seared foie gras with quince paste. Our quince paste has a hint of cinnamon and a refreshing scent of lemon peel. It constitutes a very simple pairing with foie gras by exposing its buttery flavour and balancing the richness.
Seared foie gras with membrilloCourse: StarterCuisine: French, ModernDifficulty: Easy
- Quince paste
200g peeled quince, cut in approximately 1cm cubes
112g golden caster sugar
1 lemon, cut in quarters
1 cinnamon stick, 4-5cm
- Foie gras
2 thick slices of raw foie gras, 2-3cm
- Quince paste
- Insert all ingredients in a saucepan and mix them with a spatula.
- Cover the saucepan with cling film and let it infuse in the room temperature for 3-4h (you can skip this step, but we find that the infusion time improves the final product), by that time the quinces should absorb most of the sugar and their colour will start to change.
- Place the saucepan over a medium heat with a lid on.
- Bring the content to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the quince for 1/ 1½ h until the quinces will become very soft and almost all of the water will evaporate.
- Remove the peel, cores, lemon, cinnamon and discard them.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the remaining quinces.
- Transfer the quince paste in a container/bowl and cool it down.
- Even if the paste seems a bit liquidy, don’t worry as it will congeal once it’s cool. Keep the membrillo refrigerated in a sealed container.
- Cooking foie gras
- Method 1
- Place a medium non-stick pan over a high heat.
- Put both slices of foie gras and fry until the first side is nicely browned, then flip them on the other side. The foie gras will render a lot of fat, and therefore the texture will become ultra soft. Be very careful when flipping foie on the other side.
- Method 2
- Vacuum pack both pieces of foie gras.
- Place them in a sous vide machine at 58C for 15min.
- Once they are ready, carefully remove from the bag.
- Using a blow torch, caramelise the foie gras on both sides for about 30s at medium-high heat.
- Place one piece of foie gras on each of the preheated plates.
- Make a nice little spheres of the membrillo using measuring spoons if you fancy. And enjoy!
- The rich, dark red-purple colour comes from the peel and cores of quinces. Therefore peel and core your quinces reserving both. Put the peel and cores in a small bag suitable for cooking, we used tea bags. That way, it will be easier to fish out the peel and cores at the end. There are many different styles of membrillo which require different techniques. Our recipe yields a rather firm paste. We kept the membrillo in the fridge for 1 week and it was perfectly fine.
- We have tried two ways of cooking raw foie gras. The first one requires a frying pan and a very high heat. The following one involves a sous vide machine. Choose whichever you like the most!