Foie gras, and why it is the ugly duckling of the culinary world

Does foie gras make your mouth water or does it give you goosebumps? Let's take a closer look at this French classic!

Here’s another article that we will start…

With ‘love it or hate it’.

What were the previous topics we wrote about?

Eating deep fried tarantulas.

Fast food cheeseburgers.

And Cambodian balut.

No funny insects this time.

You can probably find this next one where you live.

Let’s talk about foie gras today!

What is the country you immediately think of when you hear the word foie gras?

France of course!

The country next door for us.

Because that is where this delicacy became so popular.

Not that no one before was ever aware of those fatty bird livers.

Or had ever come up with the idea to start eating them.

What is foie gras?

It is goose or duck liver that has been artificially enlarged by force feeding ducks and geese.

What does it mean?

Foie gras literally means ‘fat liver’ in French.

When and where did foie gras originate?

Surprisingly that was over 4000 years ago.

The Egyptians were already aware of what a delicacy duck and goose liver was.

These birds would eat themselves almost into a coma before starting off on their annual migration flight for which they knew they would need lots of food to make it in one go.

So the Egyptians were the ones who started force feeding domestic geese and ducks to fatten their livers artificially for consumption.

This practice gradually found its way elsewhere, the Romans and Greeks also had a soft spot for this creamy delicacy.

Does foie gras make your mouth water of does it give you goosebumps? Let's take a closer look at this French classic!

Why is it controversial?

Because of the force feeding of the birds.

Lots of people and certainly animal rights groups are against foie gras because of its questionable ethics and animal welfare issues.

It is even banned in a couple of countries.

What does foie gras taste like?

That is quite a difficult question to answer.

It definitely doesn’t have that metallic flavor like cooked veal or pork liver, that is for sure.

Foie gras is a tad sweet in flavor and very subtle.

Some have a tendency to call anything they can’t quite put a finger on “umami” and that is also the case if you ask people.

Is foie gras healthy?

In moderate amounts, yes.

Goose or duck liver contains vitamins and minerals.

It is a calorie bomb and contains both saturated and unsaturated fats.

Does ethical foie gras exist?

For a long time now foie gras has been linked to animal cruelty.

Some geese farmers though don’t force feed their animals but just provide them with plenty of different kinds of food to gorge on.

Which also results in geese developing a fatty liver, but without stuffing anything down their throats.

Does foie gras make your mouth water of does it give you goosebumps? Let's take a closer look at this French classic!

Who invented foie gras?

If you ask the French, then their answer will be Jean-Joseph Clause.

He is the chef who started making the famous goose liver paté in 1779.

Why is France the centre of goose liver making?

Because of Jean-Joseph, the abundance of domesticated geese and ducks, the introduction of corn as a crop in France in the 18th century and the invention of food sterilisation.

Jean-Joseph’s patented goose liver paté could be shipped safely all over the country, and gradually all over the world.

Can you freeze fresh foie gras?

Yes, you can.

We like to buy a whole goose liver, slice it up and freeze it separately.

A slice of frozen foie gras doesn’t need a lot of time to thaw.

Can you freeze foie gras paté?

Yes, but it will have a negative impact on the flavor.

You can usually keep the paté unopened for a few years in your pantry or kitchen cupboard.

How to serve foie gras?

There are 2 ways to eat it: fresh raw foie gras to sear off in a hot pan.

And foie gras terrine or paté.

This liver paté can be salt cured and eaten raw.

Sometimes it is lightly poached and cooled off again before sliced.

Does foie gras make your mouth water or does it give you goosebumps? Let's take a closer look at this French classic!

What is foie gras torchon?

You will also find it by the name of foie gras torchon.

Torchon refers to the kitchen towel or cheesecloth the fresh duck or goose liver was originally wrapped in to shape and cure.

The liver paté is best eaten cold with (toasted) bread and a mild fruit or onion chutney. Some even serve it with marmalade.

Don’t spread the liver paté on bread, it is not cream cheese.

Here is how to do it: cut off small bits of the paté and eat it separately.

A bite of paté, a bite of bread, a bite of paté, a bite of bread.

How to serve fresh foie gras?

Fresh duck or goose liver is of course raw.

Slices of fresh foie gras are usually pan seared and served mi-cuit which means seared on the outside and still a little gooey on the inside.

We love to serve it seared with stewed apples as a starter.

And in combination with pasta or risotto as a main course.

A dish with fresh foie gras you certainly must have heard of is tournedos rossini.

Pan seared filet mignon topped with a slice of seared goose liver.

Absolutely delicious!

What is mousse de foie gras?

French law is very strict when it comes to naming foie gras products.

Paté has to contain at least 80% of duck or geese liver to be called paté. Check the ingredients list on a product to see how much liver is actually in it: that will tell you enough about the quality.

Mousse will usually contain very little goose or duck liver and more egg whites, bread and artificial flavoring for instance.

Why is foie gras so expensive?

Keeping geese and ducks for their fatty livers is labor intensive and time consuming.

These birds take a while to grow up and reach their ideal age and weight.

And don’t forget the mountain of food it takes to get them to that point.

Does foie gras make your mouth water or does it give you goosebumps? Let's take a closer look at this French classic!

What wine goes with it?

That is a question for Luc the wine connoisseur!

“Traditionnaly, you match foie gras with a soft white wine like a French Sauternes, Cadillac, Coteaux du Layon or Jurançon, but also Alsace wines such as Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer.

I also love to drink a good glass of Hungarian Tokaj or a German Auslese with it.

Duck or goose liver is more and more served with red wine as well. Bad news is that you really need a great classic red wine such as Saint Emilion, Pomerol or a good Bourgogne, which can be quite expensive.

If you can’t find these wines easily where you live, buy a a bottle of good red port.”

What about you?

Do you like foie gras?

Have you ever tasted or cooked it before?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.

We’d love to hear from you!

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