Molly’s Uncle Harry is a mysterious one.
On special occasions, he’s known to pitch up with something a little extraordinary to add to the feast. Something surprising, something unexpected. More often than not it will be extremely decadent, delicious, and, on the open-market, eye-wateringly expensive.
Knowing Harry as we do, it’s unlikely that he paid eye-wateringly expensive prices. He proffers the contribution with a wink and an expression that says, “ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies”. It’s at that point that our minds wander and we imagine how Harry got hold of said goods (cue watery dissolve and plinky plonky music). Did they actually fall off the back of a lorry and does this mean Harry has been tail-gating luxury goods vans in France and Russia? Does he really have a “man” that he meets on a cold misty night in London, probably in a trench coat, a trilby and shiny black shoes? Does Harry say “I hear it is raining in Poland” and does ‘the man’ then say, “Yes. And the red squirrel is in the third field” before handing over a package wrapped in brown paper and tied with string (that’s the foie gras, in case you’re not following)?
Probably not, but this is what’s running through our minds.
So yes, in this instance it was foie gras. Harry turned up with about a kilo of foie gras duck’s liver and I elbowed my way into the kitchen to make sure I was in on the action. We cooked it two ways – simply sliced and pan-fried (my favourite) and served with brioche and a balsamic reduction, and also as a terrine for those that couldn’t quite stomach rare duck’s liver. Certainly for the terrine, this was a first time for both of us and we turned to cook books and the internet to work out what the hell to do. We cut some major corners for the terrine because we started too late but it was still delicious.
And all the more for the shroud of mystery that surrounds how Harry happened to come by a kilo of bone fide foie gras.
Also, it was all a lot easier than I imagined and totally do-able at home. The only vaguely specialist equipment you’ll need is a meat thermometre.
So, if you ever happen to come by a quantity of raw foie gras after a strange encounter with a dodgy looking bloke muttering about red squirrels in Poland, then give this a whirl. It’ll certainly impress your mates.
Terrine de Foie Gras au Sauterne
- 1/2 kilo Foie Gras (duck liver
- A cup or two of balsamic vinegar
- About a glass of Sauterne
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Remove veins from the livers (see picture)
- Place pieces in a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Pour over a glass or so of Sauterne, just so it’s almost covering the liver.
- Seal the top with a piece of parchment/baking paper to keep the moisture in.
- refrigerate for 48 hours (we only marinated ours for 24 hours and it was still delicious).
- After 24hours, pack the pieces into a terrine dish. Ideally rectangular for neat slices but we only had oval to hand. If you like the texture to be more like parfait then pack in tightly by pressing down with your fists to make it really meld in together. If you prefer your foie gras to come apart a little in its natural form, then exert less pressure. Smooth the top with a knife. Ensure there is a good 1.5 to 2 inch gap at the top for all the fat that renders out as it cooks.
- Cover with foil and place the dish in a roasting pan and top with water. Essentially you’re creating a bain marie in the oven. The water should go right to where the foie gras ends in the terrine dish.
- Timings and temperatures: Place the bain marie into the oven at 90 degrees. After 20minutes, turn the oven down to 60 degrees. The foie gras is cooked when the centre reaches 65 degrees celsius. We expected this to take about an hour but ended up taking 2 but largely because we think we had too much cold water in the bain marie i.e the bain marie was too large for the quantity so it took a lot longer to heat up and get to the right temperature. To reduce cooking time, spend time getting the size of the dishes right.
- Remove from oven when cooked and refrigerate for 24 hours. We fast tracked this by using the freezer to fast-track the cooling though you will need to keep an eye on this!
- For the balsamic reduction; some recipes say add sugar some say simply reduce. We used an apple cider balsamic and chose not to add sugar because it really doesn’t need it. Simply add balsamic to a small pan, bring to the boil and reduce and reduce until you get to the right consistency. Ours was like treacle though you can have it thinner if you like. If you over-do it, simply add water and stir in and keep going. Be aware that the house will smell and your eyes will sting when it first gets going.
- Serve with toasted brioche and apple pieces pan-fried in the duck fat rendered from the foie gras.
Pan Fried Foie Gras
- Remove the larger veins from the livers but, unlike with the terrine, aim to keep the livers largely in tact.
- Slice to desired thickness with a sharp knife (dip the blade in hot water between slicings so you get a good clean slice).
- Place liver steaks in a hot pan. No need to add fat as the livers will release plenty of their own. Cook for approximately 2-3 minutes each side spooning the fat over the steaks as they sizzle in the pan.
- Serve on toasted brioche with apple pieces pan-fried in duck fat and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.