Foie Gras

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If I were ever asked what my last meal would be, it wouldn’t be a difficult answer. Foie gras, seared gently and cooked medium-rare, served with a compote of sorts and some toasts. It’s heaven on a plate to me.

Sadly, I can count the number of people I know who love liver as much as I do on one finger. So as a result, I’ve rarely prepared it.


Fortunately, I am able to buy beef liver where I live, and do enjoy it on occasion, typically with eggs and lots of browned onions.

And, I am able to purchase chicken liver in order to make chicken liver paté.

But there is just no comparing a slice of beef liver, or puréed chicken livers to the wonderfulness that is foie gras, and it was high time I purchased it.

My source for foie gras is the wonderful store and website D’Artagnan. The founder of D’Artagnan is Ariane Daguin, and her story is inspirational.

I purchased two lobes from D’Artagnan – one to cook sliced, and the other to make a paté for the holidays.

I chose to serve the foie gras with beet pancakes, which I made simply with grated beets, chopped shallots, egg, and flour.

Because fruit pairs so well with foie gras, I poached apple slices in a combination of apple nectar and maple syrup until soft, then reduced the liquid until syrupy.

Sometimes there is confusion, as one can make paté from liver, or one can make paté from foie gras, as my friend Stéphane did when I visited him at his home five long years ago. I got to help a little!

To prepare the foie gras, slice the lobe gently but firmly. Place the slices on a plate, and season with salt and pepper.

I like to cook foie gras in browned butter. I prefer a lighter sear, so I immediately turned down the fire after turning over the foie gras slices.

It only takes a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. As I mentioned, I love foie gras medium rare. To the plate with 2 slices of foie gras I added a beet pancake, some of the nectar-poached apples, and then poured on a little syrup.


The combination was perfection, if I may say so myself!

I included the beet pancake for color, but one could place the foie gras slices on bread slices optionally.

If all you’ve heard about foie gras is the inhumane treatment of ducks and geese, please read this article by my favorite Serious Eats writer J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT. The article is well-researched, educational, and also based on personal experience.

Pâté

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Pâté is one of my favorite delicacies. Of course, it helps that I like liver – a lot. This pâté has a subtle liver flavor because it’s made with mild chicken livers. It’s silky smooth and spreadable.

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Pâté is not to be confused with foie gras, which are actual lobes of fattened liver, usually goose, typically served in slices with a fruit compote of some sort.


There are also terrines, sometimes called Terrines de Campagne, which are dense loaves made from coarsely ground meats, that typically don’t include liver. Terrine slices are fabulous as part of an aprés-ski spread, especially for non-liver lovers.

Quite often in the fall or winter, I’ll make this simple and inexpensive pâté, even though I’m usually the only one who enjoys it. I like it served the traditional way – on toast points or bread, as part of an hors d’oeuvres platter.

This recipe is my mother’s. I’ve seen similar recipes, but I just stick to this one because it always comes out perfectly. Here it is:

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Pâté

2 pounds chicken livers, at room temperature
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Few bay leaves
2 sticks butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
A few grindings black pepper
4 tablespoons cognac

The first thing that needs to be done is clean the livers. There are membranes and sometimes little blobs of fat that need to be removed. You’ll feel the membranes – just do your best to pull on them while holding the livers in the other hand, until you can pull them out. Then discard. Continue with all the livers, rinsing them as you go, and placing them in a colander.

Place all of the livers on paper towels to dry; set aside.

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Meanwhile, have all of your aromatics ready to go. Then heat both sticks of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I like to brown the butter slightly.

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When the butter is bubbling, add the onion, garlic, and bay leaves. Sauté for 5 minutes.

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Add the livers to the skillet, plus the thyme, allspice, salt, and pepper.

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After about 5 minutes of cooking and occasional stirring, add the cognac. Stir the mixture and let it cook for another minute or so. Turn off the heat and let everything cool down.
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When it’s all cooled, cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight. Before making the pâté, bring the liver mixture to room temperature or even warm gently.

Remove the bay leaves. Place about half of the livers in a blender, not including all of the liquid. Have a rubber spatula handy.

Blend on low; it will look like it won’t blend, but it really will. Be patient with the mixture. Move it around with the spatula, and blend again.

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Once it’s smooth, pour into a terrine, or loaf-shaped mold, then repeat with the remaining liver mixture. The terrine I used measures 4 1/2″ x 11 3/4″, and is 3 3/4″ deep, but you can use multiple dishes as well.

Chill the pâté, covered, for about 2 hours. Then, cover it with about 1/4″ of duck fat or slightly warm butter. Then cover again and keep in the refrigerator for two days before using.

Serve at room temperature, with bread or toasts alongside a jam, chutney, or my favorite – Dijon mustard.

note: Except for foie gras, the terms pâté and terrine can be used interchangeably. I took a picture of this curried chicken and raisin “pâté” when I was wandering through Le District in NYC recently, (France’s version of Eataly,) and I bet it’s more of a meat terrine, and mostly likely doesn’t contain liver. To me, a pâté is smooth, and a terrine coarse in texture, sometimes even containing sausages or eggs. But never make assumptions. Do keep in mind that if you dislike liver, you could still enjoy terrines.
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