I have recently been approached by more than one French producer of foie gras (pronounced “fwah gra”, meaning “fat liver”) about trying to enter the Indian market. They have obviously heard about the huge retail boom. The question is not so much whether we have the buying power (and clearly we do), but are we going to part with hard-earned cash for a smooth pâté of goose or duck liver, no matter how attractive the tin or packaging? Well, I think there definitely is a luxury market, and once tasted, foie gras is one of those sinful, cholesterol nightmares to which you wish you hadn’t been introduced.
Most people will have tasted pâté de foie gras, which is a paste made from liver and often flavoured with truffles, eaten on little toasts or served on top of steak (Tournedos Rossini). The real McCoy is the entire liver, pan fried, leaving the middle a little underdone. This is often served with green peppercorns, or flambéed with a little Cognac, served with prunes, used to stuff quail, or used in a roulade or roll of meat. Foie gras anywhere on a menu usually denotes high price, luxury and decadence, with a product that originates in France and is a distinct part of the French fine-dining experience.
The bad publicity around how this liver is produced accounts as much for its notoriety. It was popular in the ancient world when the Roman gastronome, Apicius, discovered that you could increase the size of goose livers using the same method he had done earlier for pigs’ livers, by force feeding the animal with dried figs. When the animals were fat enough, they were drenched with wine mixed with honey, and then immediately killed for consumption. Egyptians had learned this technique and had practised it on birds much earlier. But it was the Romans who first documented foie gras as a distinct food. So you can’t blame the poor French entirely for its modern apotheosis. In the Landes, in Alsace to the east of France and more particularly around Périgord in the south-west, the unwilling goose or duck’s assimilation of fistfuls of maize is translated into the melting, unctuous delicacy that, along with caviar, has become synonymous with sybaritic eating. Today, foie gras is produced in Hungary, Bulgaria and even China, but the French are still the largest producers and consumers.
This is the classic dish of Tournedos Rossini. Tins of pâté de foie gras are already available in India, under names such as “bloc”, “terrine” or pâté.
4 thick slices of beef undercut/tenderloin, about 200g each
Salt and pepper to taste
1tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
225g foie gras, sliced into four equal portions
1/4 cup Madeira or port
2 small onions, sliced thin
1 cup demi glaze (thickened brown stock)
1tbsp chopped truffles or truffles salsa
Preheat the oven to 190°C. Season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the butter and sear the meat on both sides, about three minutes per side. Transfer the meat to a roasting pan. Reduce the heat and stir in the Madeira or port into what is left in the frying pan. Add the onions and cook for about five minutes. Stir in the demi glaze and reduce the sauce by half, until it coats the back of a spoon. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and keep warm. Serve the meat with a slice of foie gras on top. Place in the oven for five minutes to warm the dish and slightly melt the foie gras. Remove and serve with the sauce and a few truffles or truffle salsa.
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