Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gourmet Gifting or Buffet: “Faux” Foie Gras

In any ethical situation, the thing you want least to do is probably the right action. – Jerry Pournelle 

Many gourmet gifts, plus a couple for the chef!

Some foods are rightly called guilty pleasures. There’s many reasons for this. Some are high in calories, some are decadent and rich, some are bad for your health, and some are ethically bad.

Yes, that's one cup of butter.
What this recipe mimics – for many folks – falls into the last category. Foie gras (French for "fat liver") is the liver of a duck or goose that has been purposefully fattened. I have to admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it a few times when dining out.

Foie Gras was considered a delicacy thousands of years ago by the Egyptians. It came from the geese that had migrated from their summer habitat in Scandinavia to their winter one on the Egyptian Delta. 

They discovered that these birds had very large, fatty (and delicious) livers. This was due to the geese stocking up fuel in their liver for the long flight from northern Europe to Africa.

Don't be tempted to taste. It's still raw!
Clever goose farmers learned that you could force feed the animals and get the same, if not greater, result. Today the liver of a force-fed goose is six to ten times its normal size.

On an episode of Diary of a Foodie, a show by the now defunct Gourmet magazine, we were taken to a French foie gras farm where the geese seemed to be treated quite well, and were free-range. They were force-fed, but didn’t seem to be harmed in any way or caused much, if anything, in the way of distress.

As you can imagine, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) tends to think the contrary. I just read what they have posted about foie gras. Suffice it to say I don’t want to repeat any of it here. They painted a nasty picture.

There are good farmers and bad farmers everywhere. I would imagine, like everything else, the truth lies somewhere between. The extremes of either end of an ethical question should equally be mistrusted.

So how about if you could avoid the issue all together? No one cares about chickens, right?

Evenly space the dishes in a 9x13.
Well, this recipe makes a pâté that is very, very reminiscent of foie gras without any of the guilt. It is smooth, creamy, rich and delicious.

I took the main recipe from the one shown on the Diary of a Foodie episode I spoke of above, but made some alterations.

This is a great thing to have out on a buffet, or as a host/hostess gift, or as part of a food basket gift.

To gift I purchased four cage-top jars at the Dollarstore. I think they were about 1/2 cup in size. In hindsight I should have purchased more, or bigger ones. I filled four plus two other containers.

I know many people who will be very happy to receive a pot of this. All it needs is a crusty baguette. Which I am making today!

When baked, the mousse will be set through to the centre.
No jiggling when moved. Let cool completely before
sealing with the gelée.
“Faux” Foie Gras
Adapted from Diary of a Foodie, Season 1: Contraband Cuisine
Prep: 45 min  |  Total time: 3 hours (includes cooling)
Special: 6 or 8 x 125 ml cage-top jars
For the mousse
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp truffle oil (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 lb chicken livers, trimmed of visible fat*
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper, plus more for in gelée
For the gelée
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

To make the mousse, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté on medium low until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the truffle oil and remaining butter. Stir until the butter melts.

To show the result I dipped in with a spoon before they were
refrigerated. They will firm up more. This is really rich,
delicious stuff. The truffle oil makes a world of difference.
Clean any sinews and fat from the chicken livers. Place the onion mixture and cream in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth.

With the motor running drop the livers in, one at a time. Add the salt and pepper and process until very smooth. The mixture will be very light in texture.

Arrange the mousse baking dishes in a 9”x13” dish. Fill each small dish to about 1/4” from the top with the mousse mixture. Wrap the top of each one with foil and fill the 9x13 with water to about halfway up the sides of the mousse containers.

Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The mousse will be set through to the centre.

Remove from the water bath and let cool for at least 2 hours on the counter. Once the mousse is cool, make the gelée.

Pour the chicken stock into a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the stock and let soften for about one minute. Slowly heat the mixture to just below boiling, swirling to make sure the gelatin dissolves.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar and hot sauce. Sprinkle a generous amount of cracked black pepper (must be cracked, not ground) on top of each pâté. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the gelée on top and let set.

Once the gelée sets, cover tightly and refrigerate.

* If you can find them, duck livers would make this even closer to real foie gras. I don't think you can get them here in Halifax.


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