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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Foie Gras: Obsession & Too Much Sexy

I Adore foie gras.  It is one of my favorite things in the world.  One of my great quests in life is to find and eat the perfect foie gras.  I prefer pan seared, with some sort of acid or fruit to cut through the buttery fat, cleansing the palate, but would not turn my nose to a Mousse De Canard au Fois Gras, slathered on...well...anything.  I'm not a food snob, really.  I am perfectly happy eating Spaghettio's cold from the can.  However, foie gras is a reason to live. 

I encountered my first foie gras several years ago at The Oakroom at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville.  After our amuse bouche, a demi tasse of butternut squash soup, the waiter brought my starter to the table:

Pan Seared Foie Gras, with Pumpkin Butter Brioche, Petite Apple, Celery Leaves, Candied Walnuts in a Duck Jus Vinaigrette.

        I know and remember this because I keep a food Journal.
       When we travel or eat out, I take notes.  Staffers think I am
        some sort of critic.  I do it to remember, a  culinary archive.

It was a thing of beauty.  A finger sized sliver of foie gras dusted with Fleur de Sel,  like diamonds sparkling in the candlelight. Sculptural art on a plate.  My knife snapped the perfectly crusted sear, and slid through the buttery rich fat inside.  I took my fork and brushed the foie gras through the puddle of duck jus, pierced an apple, a candied walnut, and ate it....followed by a bite of  pumpkin buttered mini brioche.  Oh My God!  Done.  Over. Complete.  I don't even recall what I had for dinner.  It didn't matter.  And so it began.

A couple of years later on a vacation to Bermuda, we had lunch at La Coquille Harbourfront Restaurant in the Bermuda Underwater Institute of Exploration.  Patio table overlooking the harbour,a  gorgeous sunny day.  I opened the menu and there it was:

Cardamon Crusted Pan Seared Foie Gras with a Port Wine Carmalized Pear and "vin cotto" Reduction.    ( you can't make this stuff up!)

I was nervous. Can it live up to?  Do I cheat on my first foie gras?  Is sex better the second time around?  It was my quest, after all.  Of course, I ordered it.  A sliver of foie gras for lunch!  Dandy.  I did pair it with grilled asparagus, seemed more lunch-like.

It was deivine.  Perfectly crisp and buttery at the same time. The wine reduction, and caramelized pear hit every note in my mouth, bouncing around, exploding.  Great mouth-feel.  The asparagus  brought a delightful coolness to the richness of the foie gras.

I have had other foie gras here and there.  Some were  just, well,  after thoughts from a well intentioned chefs. How can foie gras be an after thought?  A cold sliced garnish to a salad.  A mini slab thrown onto a plate with Captain's Wafers for.....crunch?

A couple of years ago at The Sanderling Resort in Duck, North Carolina on the Outer Banks, I ordered as a starter: 

Pan Seared Foie Gras with a Huckleberry Reduction.  Parmesan Crisps & Toast Points.

  It arrived beautifully plated, almost like an iridescent black pearl.  However it was burned on the underside.  Not carmalized, but charred.  Off putting.  The chef came to the table totally undone, and so contrite that I still have a dear spot in my heart for that foie gras...of what could have been, but sadly wasn't.

That experience has only strengthened my quest.  It, the perfect foie gras,  is out there.  And I will find it, eat it, and savor it.

Why don't I just cook my own?  I don't trust myself.  One second too long in the saute' pan, and you have rendered goose fat.   Hmmm......Pan fried eggs in rendered goose fat, removed, a bit of dijon whisked in, a little vinegar, salt & pepper, emulsified and drizzled  over a frisee salad, topped with the eggs, allowing the yolk to spill into the salad. 

That's another story.

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