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Quebec Foie Gras


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In his FL Cookbook, Thomas Keller makes reference to foie gras being rated A,B or C and suggests buying either A or B. Although I cannot recall where, I have heard others refer to the same system. I assume this is a U.S. designation and would like to know if there is a grading hierarchy in Quebec, one of the world's really great producers of foie.

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Yes, there are three grades: A, B and C. I've only seen A in local stores. B is frequently used for patés, mousses, etc.; a couple of chefs have also told me they use it like A when appearance isn't a major concern. C is not very appealing and is rarely used alone.

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I have not looked thoroughly at the packaging of our local product. Is it clearly marked or does one have to enquire as to the grade or do we assume that in Quebec it is A unless otherwise indicated?

This statement comes from a recent site that I visited:

“I find that "B" is excellent for most uses, and contains less fat than the "A", giving it more structure for sautéing or grilling.”

Given that the A and B are used by the obsessively thorough Keller, I wonder if there is not some merit in the B for certain other uses.

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I have not looked thoroughly at the packaging of our local product. Is it clearly marked or does one have to enquire as to the grade or do we assume that in Quebec it is A unless otherwise indicated?

Am unsure about the packaging, gruyere. I've bought a whole foie gras only twice, so I don't see the label very often. Will ask the next time I'm at my butcher's, who BTW sells only A (like most local butchers, I believe).

This statement comes from a recent site that I visited:

“I find that "B" is excellent for most uses, and contains less fat than the "A", giving it more structure for sautéing or grilling.”

Given that the A and B are used by the obsessively thorough Keller, I wonder if there is not some merit in the B for certain other uses.

Can't help you, since AFAIK I've never cooked with anything other than A. But here's a piece of anecdotal evidence. One of the several great meals I had at the original Christophe (on Lajoie in the premises now occupied by Delfino) began with a slice of seared FG served atop a pile of couscous studded with dried fruits and accompanied by two sauces (cranberry jus and a veal demi-glace). When I commented to the maitre d' that their foie was far superior in taste and texture to the greasy scallop I'd been served the week before at Toqué! (atop creamy grits with dried cranberries – not one of their stellar efforts), he shrugged and said, "That's funny. They use grade A and we use grade B."

Edited by carswell (log)
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There may be more to this than meets the eye. I prefer my foie cold as a rule but most of my friends prefer the seared version. When I prepare the hot at home I have a great deal of difficulty getting a nice crusty outter layer with that molten inner texture encapsulated by the seared outside. Is it possible that our high quality Quebec product is not conducive to the searing technique but more in tune with the European 'torchon' approach?

BTW, have had the seared version at several Montreal restos with wonderful results. Les Caprices and Anise are numbers 1 and 2 by my standards. Do they buy the same product that we routinely find at MJT and AM?

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Carswell, I am surprised to read of your negative foie experience at Toque. Was that an aberration or has that been standard in your experience there. I have eaten the seared foie at Toque three times and each time it has been amongst the best I've ever had. Unfortunately for me it has been well over a year since I've been to Montreal. I must rectify that soon.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

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- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

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There may be more to this than meets the eye. I prefer my foie cold as a rule but most of my friends prefer the seared version. When I prepare the hot at home I have a great deal of difficulty getting a nice crusty outter layer with that molten inner texture encapsulated by the seared outside. Is it possible that our high quality Quebec product is not conducive to the searing technique but more in tune with the European 'torchon' approach?

Foie Gras: A Passion says a) you should always use the highest grade possible (hardly a surprising sentiment from a foie gras producer) but that b) grade A should be used for terrines (it's more work to clean lower grades, and you don't want blood splotches in the terrine) and c) grade B works for searing because the browning hides discoloration and the heat causes more blood to leak out. Le Livre du Foie Gras may say something about it, but it's not where I'd expect to find it, and my French isn't good enough to free-associate through the index. I've seared grade A from a U.S. producer and it worked nicely.

Note that in the U.S., at least, grades aren't regulated. They're self-imposed. Don't know about Canada, but I believe they are in France.

Do they buy the same product that we routinely find at MJT and AM?

Canadian producers represent a gap in my foie gras knowledge, but Sonoma Foie Gras here in California has two labels. There's Sonoma Foie Gras, which is what we buy in stores (I've always seen grade A), and Artisan Foie Gras, which you buy through Sonoma Saveurs. Artisan is made from ducks that are force-fed cooked (not raw) corn and then cold-eviscerated (kill the bird, chill overnight, remove the liver). Artisan is supposedly higher quality, but it's kind of a matter of taste. Some high-end restaurants here buy Artisan.

The upshot of all that being that Canadian producers might do something similar. Or maybe they just make sure that the upper ends of the grades go to restaurants and the lower ends go to home cooks less likely to notice.

Derrick Schneider

My blog: http://www.obsessionwithfood.com

You have to eat. You might as well enjoy it!

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When I prepare the hot at home I have a great deal of difficulty getting a nice crusty outter layer with that molten inner texture encapsulated by the seared outside. Is it possible that our high quality Quebec product is not conducive to the searing technique but more in tune with the European 'torchon' approach?

Am surprised none of our professional chef members have chimed in. Some of them probably cook more foie in a week than I will in my lifetime...

Anyway, to answer your question, I think not. Many (most?) restos use grade A for searing. And all the foie I've seared has been grade A. In my admittedly limited experience, the sought after texture has more to do with the temperature of the pan and foie, the type of pan and the thickness of the scallop.

BTW, have had the seared version at several Montreal restos with wonderful results. Les Caprices and Anise are numbers 1 and 2 by my standards.  Do they buy the same product that we routinely find at MJT and AM?

I second your enthusiasm for Les Caprices and Anise's seared foie. Also, Le Club des Pins, Au Pied du Cochon and Les Chèvres. At least some restos use the same product we can buy; again, let's hope we hear from a chef or two.

Carswell, I am surprised to read of your negative foie experience at Toque. Was that an aberration or has that been standard in your experience there. I have eaten the seared foie at Toque three times and  each time it has been amongst the best I've ever had.

I suspect it was an off night, doc, as the rest of the meal was nothing to write home about either (the foie was the nadir, though). The other meals I've had at Toqué! have been more enjoyable but — once burned, twice shy, especially at those prices — I've avoided the foie ever since.

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In my experience the best foie gras for searing is the A(+) foie gras I get from Palmex. The product is consistent, barely any fat escapes during the initial sear.

(I find that the first contact with the pan gives the best indication of the quality of the liver. A smaller amount of rendered fat initally usually indicates what will be a better result. Old or poor quality livers immediately start rendering significant amounts of fat into the pan.)

I have not found "B" foie gras to be consistent in quality, nor do I enjoy it seared as a rule. I find "B" foie gras generally more bitter, and searing only intensifies that flavour.

In fact we have used B foie gras, but it was soaked in milk to remove the blood, then marinated, and used in a terrine. For that use it worked admirably.

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Usually I cut it to 2 1/4-2 1/2cm thick. Thinner and it overcooks too easily, thicker and the outside crust suffers from the long cooking time to get the centre right.

I like to start it over high heat (not smoking!), then reduce the heat to medium high to finish.

(I believe Thomas Keller cuts it to a similar thickness, and he is somewhat an authority on the subject. See above...)

The first time I cooked foie gras was at home and it was discouraging to say the least. Thankfully I've had lots of opportunity to practise since then.

Hope this helps.

Edited by Chewie (log)
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