Poached Moulard Duck Foie Gras Au Torchon with Pickled Pear

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    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/.

    stu_spivack, and 15 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. ch☺c☺Kat718 101 months ago | reply

      Awesome, great looking!! I love foie gras.

    2. lulu cooks 101 months ago | reply

      C'est parfait! The process is so sophisticated and complex, that it's almost a rite!

    3. brady frequent traveler and eater 93 months ago | reply

      My god. I bow to your culinary dedication.

    4. ilmungo 93 months ago | reply

      Thank you all. It was one of the most intense preparations i've ever attempted, mostly because if it hadn't turned out, it would have been $65 down the drain... The result was really good, though!

    5. brady frequent traveler and eater 93 months ago | reply

      Have you attempted it a second time? Are you available for parties?

    6. ulterior epicure 93 months ago | reply

      Bravo dude - that's not an easy one to make. So messy.

    7. ilmungo 93 months ago | reply

      @brady: no, i've never attempted it again. mainly, because it's really expensive and time consuming, so it really calls for an extra special occasion. although, i have to say, to get something of this qualitiy at a restaurant, you'd have to shell out mucho bucks. For example, at the French Laundry, inclusion of foie gras in the tasting manu is an additional $40... whereas with $65 we had a nice big portion each, and we were six people. so, really, money-wise, it's a bargain.

      I've never thought about catering to parties on my own. it would be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I think I could be convinced, actually. One time I was asked to cater to a dinner for the board of directors of a rather prestigious school in LA, full of celebrities' kids, and I ended up declining because I didn't feel up to cooking for 20 people for such an important occasion, never having done anything like that before. Now I regret chickening out, actually, so I think that if I were offered a similar occasion again, I couldn't turn it down...

      @ulteriorepicure: it really is kind of messy. especially because it's so fatty, it leaves a patina of oily residue on anything you use, which takes a while to clean off. fat is good, though...

    8. ulterior epicure 93 months ago | reply

      fat is certainly good. have you seen my meal at the french laundry? have you been?

    9. ilmungo 93 months ago | reply

      Wow, looks amazing. Sounds like you've had a mixed experience, though, some dishes were not to good, and the service was terrible. I find it hard to believe, given how much they charge, but... I've never been. I would love to, one day, but right now it's just right out of my budget. :(

    10. ulterior epicure 93 months ago | reply

      Yeah, it's all very pretty, until you try to cut it or eat it.... :o( Nah, it's not that bad - but the servic was! If you go onto my sets page, you can find a lot of other restaurants I've eaten at. You'll find Per Se.

      The best meal that I had when I was out your way (S.F.?) was at Manresa down in Los Gatos. Exquisite. Chez Panisse wasn't bad either - but the service was pretty snotty.

    11. ulterior epicure 87 months ago | reply

      Please add this to the foie gras group!!

      u.e.

    12. ilmungo 87 months ago | reply

      @ulteriorepicure: Done, thanks for reminding me!

    13. The Gifted Photographer 86 months ago | reply

      Hi, I'm an admin for a group called Duck, the dish divine ...ambrosial, delectable, and we'd love to have your photo added to the group.

    14. ilmungo 86 months ago | reply

      Hi Gifted Gourmet, thanks for the invite, I've added the photo to the group!

    15. pabxmafia 34 months ago | reply

      Great post! I love me some Foie! Check out my site, culinairelifestyle.com! Cheers!

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