Last Sunday we hosted a Winter Feast in honour of our friend Indre, who successfully defended her Ph.D. dissertation. Nick and I cooked a seven course meal. Most of the dishes were taken from the French Laundry cookbook, by culinary sensei Thomas Keller. Some others were recreations of dishes that Nick had at his brother's restaurant in Aspen. Each dish was carefully paired with its "perfect" wine.
The foie gras was a unique experience to prepare and to eat. I had never had fresh foie gras in my life, let alone prepared it. Keller recommends poaching it au torchon, a preparation method that allows for the least amount of loss of fat, given the very short time in the hot liquid. But it takes four days to make.
So I started on thursday with a fresh foie gras, which we found at a steal $65 at Surfas (for about 1 1/4 pounds). The first step is very easy, just rinse the liver, cover it with milk in an airtight container, and let it refrigerate overnight. This helps draw out most of the blood.
Next day you have to rinse again, and clean the liver. This is quite involved and laborious, and it's smelly and sticky work. Essentially I had to remove all the veins I could locate, starting with the two main ones, one for each lobe of the liver. It took a while. Fortunately, it doesn't matter if you mangle the liver while doing this, because it will all get smushed together at the end anyways.
After both lobes have been cleaned, you press the liver into the bottom of a container to a 1 inch thickness, and sprinkle both sides with a mixture of kosher salt, white pepper, gray salt and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate overnight.
Day 3: Break up the foie gras on a piece of parchment paper to form a cilinder, and use the parchment paper to roll into a tight cilinder about 6 by 3 inches. Then discard the paper and tranfer the cilinder to a piece of cheesecloth. Roll again into a very tight bundle (torchon). It helps to twist the ends to keep everything tight. There should be bits of foie gras squeezing through the pores of the cheesecloth: that tight. Secure the torchon with string at both ends (a trickier business that expected), and the poach the whole thing in chicken broth (specially made by Nick) for exactly ninety seconds. Even that is enough to melt quite a bit of the fat that makes up something like 90% of the foie gras, so then you have to transfer the roll to a kitchen towel, and use it as you did the cheesecloth before to return the torchon to its original densitiy, twisting and turning to obtain a second torchon. Secure this with twine again, and hang it by the shelf of the fridge to chill overnight.
On the day of (day 4), unwrap the kitchen towel, unwrap the cheesecloth torchon. The foie gras will have discolored and oxidized on the outside. Cut off the ends with a knife, and slice the cilinder in six equal pieced. Use a round cutter to get rid of the blackened outer rind, and serve the delicious and precious core thus obtained.
It was definitely worth it!
It was paired with a 2001 Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett.
A collective blog of our experiences of that evening is taking shape at edibles.blogspot.com/.