Foie gras is the fattened liver of duck or goose. The animals are force-fed, usually with corn boiled with fat, and many people believe it is a horrible way to treat ducks and geese. This is why eating or serving foie gras has become controversial in different places all around the world. The result of force-feeding is a fatty liver that tastes better compared to regular duck or goose liver.
Foie gras is a French delicacy, although it is now popular around the world. Foie gras is expensive food. Production has not made any dramatic expansion and growth worldwide primarily because farming foie gras is not as easy as farming ducks and geese for meat, and because of the opposition of animal rights groups that consider the practice of force-feeding ducks and geese inhumane.
Foie Gras Trivia
- Foie gras is a treasured French delicacy. There is even a stipulation in French law that foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.
- Force-feeding is not something that humans started doing in modern times. As far back as 2500 BC, ancient Egyptians force-feed the birds they raise for meat, to make sure they get more meat out of it.
- Not surprisingly, France is both the largest producer and consumer of foie gras.
- When we say fattened liver, it means liver size 10 times larger than its normal size.
Foie Gras Buying Guide
You can buy foie gras whole, or opt for foie gras made into mousse, parfait, or pâté. Prepared foie gras is usually shelf-stable because part of the process is making sure the quality is not compromised during selling. But you should be very careful when buying fresh foie gras or fresh-frozen foie gras because there is a chance you’ll end up with expensive yet old or low-quality foie gras.
Here is a practical buying tip: if this is your first time buying fresh foie gras or fresh-frozen foie gras, have someone with experience buying this product accompany you. If you know someone but that person can’t make it, at least ask for advice on what to look out for, what things to check out, and what red flags to look out for so that you don’t end up buying bad foie gras. Or ask friends for recommendations, especially for vendors they have experience buying good foie gras from. Now there is a slim chance you’ll end up with bad foie gras (old or low-quality).
But since it is not common to have someone (friend or family) who is familiar with foie gras, here’s what we can offer. If it has a strong, unpleasant smell, or if there is discoloration, brown edges, or white spots on the surface, that is not a fresh foie gras. Buy from a gastronomic restaurant known for serving foie gras, specifically French restaurants. Buy from a delicatessen or butch-delicatessen that sells foie gras. Again, if it is a French delicatessen, better, for the simple reason that the French are the authority when it comes to foie gras. Even if it is a French gastronomic restaurant or a French delicatessen, always remember the qualities consistent with fresh foie gras. It is no secret that some French establishments selling foie gras have been suspected of selling low-quality foie gras, taking advantage of people who do not know what fresh foie gras looks like and are desperate to buy one.
Foie Gras Production & Farming in Texas
Production of foie gras: Food used in fattening the liver is called gavage. Force-feeding happens twice a day, for 12 days for ducks, and thrice a day for 17 days for geese. Ducks will be slaughtered after 100 days. Geese require longer – 112 days – before slaughter. The fattened liver will be harvested. It will either be sold fresh or processed before it is sent to commercial distribution channels as jarred or canned foie gras with a longer shelf-life.
While there are duck farms in Texas, there is no identified or established foie gras farm or production in the state. Nonetheless, there are several restaurants in Texas serving foie gras. France is the number one producer of foie gras. Other countries that produce foie gras include the US, Canada, Hungary, Bulgaria, and China.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Some foie gras products are believed to contain additives like coloring and alcohol, as well as food preservatives. So be sure to read the label. Avoid foie gras that contains coloring, preservatives, even alcohol, not only because of the health implications of ingesting food with preservatives and additives but because products made with additives and preservatives usually do so to hide the poor quality of the foie gras used to make this product.
Whole foie gras is usually sold in a sealed vacuum-sealed plastic pack or paper wrapper, while processed foie gras is usually sold in glass jars or a can. The most important thing to check in the packaging of foie gras is the label. Check the label. A good foie gras should have a Grade A mark on the label. Also, if the label has the IGP (Indication géographique protégé) or Label Rouge mark, this is a guarantee that the foie gras you will eat was made following the highest industry standard that guarantees safety and quality.
Enjoying Foie Gras
Foie gras is a delicacy made popular by French cuisine. Foie gras has a rich, buttery, and delicate flavor. When you order foie gras in restaurants, sometimes they serve it alongside another food or dish, like steak for example. Foie gras pairs well with bread or crackers. Never spread foie gras; instead, gently place it on top of the toasted bread or cracker. The common practice when eating foie gras is to cook them first, usually over very low to medium heat. If you see the word “cuit” on the label, it means the foie gras has already been cooked. You can eat this out of the can or glass jar.
There are specific instructions you need to be familiar with when it comes to storing foie gras. How you store it depends on what type of foie gras you have.
- Raw, fresh, foie gras – The temperature of the storage should be between 0°C to 4°C, and you can only store this for seven days. Keep it in its original packaging and remove only when you are ready to cook it. You can freeze it if you want to keep it for a maximum of one year. However, you cannot freeze it again after it thaws.
- Duck foie gras mi-cuit or half-preserved – The temperature of the storage should be between 0°C to 4°C and once you open it, make sure to eat it in three days.
- Duck foie gras conserve or preserved foie gras – The temperature of the storage should be between 0°C to 4°C and once you open it, make sure to eat it in three days.
- Mousses, blocs, and pates of foie gras – You can keep these at room temperature and it is good until best before or expiration date indicated in the label. Once you open it, make sure to refrigerate it and consume it in two days.
Make your own pan-seared foie gras
Pan-seared foie gras is an easy way to prepare and eat foie gras at home. This will require 45 minutes of prep time and as many minutes for cooking. Perfect if you have special guests who will appreciate this French delicacy.
This recipe serves 6
For the apple purée, you will need:
- Unsalted butter, 3 tablespoon
- Dry white wine, 3/4 cups
- 3 thinly sliced apples
- Quince jelly, 3 tablespoons
For the pan-seared foie gras and wine sauce
- Six 4-ounce grade A foie gras
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Fresh grapefruit juice, 1 cup
- Chardonnay, 1/2 cup
- Rosemary leaves (finely-chopped), 1/4 teaspoon
- Unsalted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoon
- Orange zest
Step 1. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the apples, wine, and jelly.
Step 2. Cook until apples are tender. Transfer everything to a blender and purée until smooth.
Step 3. Slice foie gras diagonally and season with salt and pepper. Sear using a pan until golden brown. Turn the foie gras over and cook for 2 minutes.
Step 4. After searing foie gras, remove oil and leave just a thin film in the pan. Deglaze the pan using grapefruit juice. Simmer until the juice is reduced by half.
Step 5. Add chardonnay, orange zest, rosemary, and pan drippings that were collected earlier. Simmer for 1 minute.
Step 6. Add butter, remove from the heat, and whisk until well combined.
Step 7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 8. Cut the brioche into rounds, place them on a baking sheet, and toast under the broiler until golden brown.
Step 9. Plate foie gras, brioche, and apple purée.