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Foie gras
It’s one of those French food things. You eat it without premeditation. You really don’t want to know how it’s made, what it actually is, why it’s considered ghastly by animal rights and lean cuisine freaks. You have to try it without prejudice and decide for yourself. We find it delicious, exquisite…but we take it in very small quantities, not only because it’s expensive but also because it is rich. The French consider the Christmas holidays the best time of year to indulge in this delicacy.
     It was the Egyptians in the time of the Pharaohs who discovered the exceptional gastronomic qualities of foie gras. They observed migratory waterfowl gorging on grains to get themselves ready for their annual journey to warmer climes. The Romans loved their goose livers too, feeding their flocks on figs and grains prior to preparing them for slaughter. During medieval times, foie gras was a specialty primarily of western France. With the discovery of the new world, corn/maize was brought over to France and successfully added to the mix of feed for prospective geese and ducks. This delicacy truly came into its own in the 1700s when Louis XVI decided it was the best thing this side of sliced baguette.
     Although now produced in other countries and other parts of France, notably Alsace, foie gras is still most closely associated with the Southwest, an important part of the gastronomic culture of the Dordogne, the Perigord and Auvergne. Its highly prized reputation comes with prices to match…around 120 euros per kilo, about $4 per ounce.
     You can buy foie gras in a few different ways, depending on how long you want to keep it and how much you want to pay. Primo de primo is whole foie gras, one or several lobes simply covered in fat, with no additives or conservatives, just salted and peppered. From this base the best foie gras products are prepared, including foie gras d'oie (goose) or foie gras de canard (duck), made from agglomerated pieces of different livers; blocks of foie gras, a mixture of reconstituted livers; and also pâtés, purées, mousses and all sorts of other foie gras-based specialties. These days, duck seems to be supplanting goose as the foie gras of preference in France…duck is gamier, more earthy, less delicate, less expensive.
     How best to serve foie gras? Bring it out of the refrigerator and its packaging about 15 minutes prior to serving. Best to cut it into thin (1/2 inch) slices, using a hot knife. Serve it with toast, some mixed greens, all on a cold plate. Or even more daring is to lightly sauté or poach a whole piece of foie gras, then serve it along side a bit of mixed greens with bread on the side. Melt in your mouth. Either way is delicious, and both can be served with a sweet white wine or even champagne. Voilà! Foie gras!
     Now that we’ve hit the high points, let’s be direct: Foie gras is the enlarged liver of a goose or duck that has been force-fed maize (corn) every day for a few weeks. The process exploits the natural ability of migrating waterfowl, or even the domesticated cousins of migrating waterfowl, to store excess fat in their livers when they gorge themselves in preparation for long flights. After the gorging process (gavage in French), the goose or duck is taken to slaughter, not only for its delicate liver, but also for its meat made into confit, and its feathers for down bedding. It’s not a kind process, it’s not a pretty process, but it’s part of the process of French food preparation in all its gore and glory. And, by the way, it’s as close to 100% fat content as a food product gets. Bon appetit!

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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