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Foie Gras tomfoolery

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I was recently in the South West of France, and since the foie gras was so plentiful and so comparatively inexpensive, I bought a couple of fresh ones (from different vendors in different locations) and took them home to experiment. The first thing I noticed was how much less fat they contained. I had only cooked American or Belgian foie gras before, but whatever the cooking method (fry, steam, roast), I usually ended up with enormous pools of melted fat, even if it the end product seemed perfectly cooked. In contrast I found the French ones much leaner.

I was wondering if you could tell us how and where you learned to deal with foie gras; what your favourite approaches were, what pitfalls to look out for.

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The foie gras from France comes in different categories with "foie gras extra" being the most suited for frying rather than steaming or baking in a terrine. My method for foie gras frying is this.

First let the liver come to room temperature then when it is soft lift out as much of the sinew, veins and membrane as possible. Return the liver to the fridge and let it set hard again.

Heat a dry pan until red hot. Slice - thickly - and season the liver or as much of it as you want. Drop two slices at a time onto the pan and let these sear quickly on each side - they will still be raw in the middle.

Lift the slices onto a small roasting tray and leave somewhere warm - the very bottom of the oven perhaps or in my kitchen a spot high up above the cooker and therefore warm. The heat will seep through the slices of liver within a few minutes leaving the centre moist whilst the outside edges remain crisp. The timing varies with the thickness of the slices. I like them to be quite thick so that the flavour of the foie gras comes through as well as the texture of the outside

This method creates a bit of smoke so if you are cooking for lots of people then use the pan in batches of two slices at a time

Most french foie gras is battery farmed from ducks and so you have to shop around to find the best quality. The traditional associations with Christmas come from goose liver which is still very seasonal and at its best - like goose itself - around that time.

The pitfalls with foie gras are regularly to do with managing the temperature so that you don't end up with too much buttery oil. Generally low temperatures are the answer. The frying method just combines this with a swift searing. The livers are full of little threads and veins that can floss your teeth as you eat if left in. They are always best removed whilst the liver is soft rather than straight from the fridge.

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