Guide to Foie Gras & Foie Grading

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Guide to Foie Gras & Foie Grading

This luxurious and controversial ingredient has been cultivated by man since the days of the ancient Egyptians and the Roman Empire. These specially produced duck livers (traditionally Moulard ducks) are one of the world’s great delicacies.

The secret to foie gras production is actually harnessing these animals’ naturally evolved ability to swell their livers with calories in preparation for migration. Most commercially produced foie gras is now made using a process called gavage (originally designed by the Romans, who used figs), where the bird is force-fed corn mash during the last two weeks of its life in order to bulk up the liver.

The end result is an enlarged liver with a smooth, creamy consistency and a rich flavor prized by many cultures, but especially the French. Despite its pronounced richness, foie gras is actually low in saturated fat.

Applications:

While traditional French dishes usually call for cold foie, the American culinary tradition prefers it hot.  A seared slice of foie gras can add richness and body to many dishes.  It can also be used to make a multitude of traditional French terrines, mousses, and sauces. 

The flavor of foie gras pairs well with fruit, cured pork, fresh truffles and white truffle oil, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper.

Which Grade to Use:

Three grades of foie gras are sold:

Grade A Foie Gras

the best, is ideal for dishes where slices of foie gras will be used.  Grade A livers are also the largest.

Grade B Foie Gras

can show light bruising, is softer, but can still be used for slicing & searing. Grade B foie is smaller (1-1 ½ pounds) with more visible veins. More fat is rendered out while cooking Grade B foie.

Grade C Foie Gras

is usually reserved for terrines and mousses where the liver will be processed prior to being served.

Preparing Foie Gras:

The French often soak foie gras in milk for a few hours prior to continuing prep work. 

While they will shrink during cooking, remove any visible veins prior to cooking foie gras.  Separate the lobes and use needle nose pliers or strong tweezers to pull out connective tissue and veins that are visible where the lobes were connected.  After slicing the foie, check the slices for remaining portions of vein and remove them.  Any resulting holes can be patched with some of the foie bits that have fallen off while removing the tissue & veins.

How Much Foie Gras to Serve:

Because of its richness, foie gras is usually served in portions ranging from 2 to 3 1/2 ounces per person.

How to Store Foie Gras:

Foie gras should be kept frozen and vacuum packed until needed.  Once defrosted, foie should be cooked within two days.

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