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Foie gras or goose liver
Foie gras  or goose liver
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French: foie gras

 

History & Tradition
It was the Egyptians who discovered foie gras around 2500 BC. Hunters along the Nile noticed that the liver of the geese were bigger, paler and much tastier during the migration period than the rest of the year. They came to understand that this enlarged liver was the result of the geese overfeeding themselves before their migration. Migratory birds have the genetic capacity to stock surplus food in their liver, which then acts as an energy tank on which the bird can draw during its long and tiring journey.

The Egyptians particularly appreciated the taste of the foie gras, but since it could only be obtained during very short period of the year, they decided to reproduce that natural phenomenon themselves all year round. They started to feed geese with figs in order to get a tasty foie gras. Later on, the geese were replaced with ducks and the figs with corn.

The Jews were the first to develop the art of feeding. In fact, in Central Europe between the 13th and 18th century, they were known for their foie gras of high quality and impressive size. But it was the French who contributed to the popularity of foie gras by improving the feeding technique. It was also the French who developed the various methods for cooking foie gras that are known today. Foie gras torchon style, foie gras in a bloc and foie gras mousse are recipes that were developed by great French chefs. Over the years, the French developed a passion for foie gras that they spread worldwide.

Foie gras production was developed in Alsace by Jean-Pierre Clause, chef to Marshal Contades, the military governor of Strasbourg from 1762 until 1788. Since the Roman legions arrived in Alsace and began using geese to guard farms, no one had been able to resist foie gras, so meltingly soft and tender that a single bite has been know to make a grown man cry.

An artisanal process
To better understand the process, we went to Aux Champs Élisé to meet the owner, Élisé François, who explained to us the steps of foie gras production. From France he obtains his “raw material,” namely the mulard ducklings that arrive in quarantine sites when just one or two days old. Confined for 28 days, the ducklings are then taken to the farm for a period of 12 weeks before being transferred to the force-feeding unit where they’re given a special diet. Using no antibiotics, hormones, fat or animal meal, they are fed solely on corn, hot water and a few minerals. This careful diet, increased each day, is served to them for 27 meals, that is, for 13 1/2 days, until they are slaughtered. The force-feeding regimen ensures that each bird will reach a given weight over the course of the period.

Although there are those who decry the practice of force-feeding, we should remember that it reproduces a natural phenomenon, since migratory birds overeat before their annual migrations. Despite the presence of sophisticated modern equipment, foie gras production still depends heavily on traditional methods involving a lot of hands-on labor, which explains the high price of foie gras.

 
Recipes
Crispy Foie Gras on a Bed of Fresh Mache
Pierre Carrier, Le Hameau Albert Ier, France
Duck Foie Gras and Artichoke Terrine
Guy Martin, Restaurant Le Grand Véfour, Paris
Foie Gras Cromesquis
Marc Meneau, L'Espérance, France
Foie Gras Pâté en Croûte with Christmas Beer
Antoine Westermann, Paris, France
Foie Gras Poached in Consommé
Gilles Etéocle, Hôtel restaurant La Poularde, France
Foie Gras Tatin
Valérie Gautherot, Moulin de l'Abbaye, Périgord, France
Half-Cooked Foie Gras with Red Wine
Christophe Girardot, La Table de Montesqieu, Gironde, France
Hot Duck Foie Gras with Grapes
Jean Coussau, Relais de la Poste, France
Lightly-Cooked Foie Gras with Saussignac Wine and Date Mousse
Vincent Arnould, Le Vieux Logis, Trémolat
Lobe of Duck Foie Gras
Roland Mazère, anc. chef propriétaire Le Centenaire, Périgord, France
Marbré of Goose and Duck Liver with Sweet Spices
Christian Denis, Le Clos St-Denis, Belgique
Pot au Feu of Duck Foie Gras with Root Vegetables
Christophe Girardot, La Table de Montesqieu, Gironde, France
Roasted Duck Foie Gras with Fruit Compote and Caramel with Vinegar
Roland Mazère, anc. chef propriétaire Le Centenaire, Périgord, France
Thai Style Pot-au-feu with Foie Gras
Jacques et Laurent Pourcel, Le Jardin des Sens, France
Warm Duck Foie Gras in Swiss Chard Greens
Stéphane Raimbault, L'Oasis, France
Wood-Grilled Fresh Foie Gras with Caramelized Fall Fruits and Port Reduction
Hélène Darroze, Restaurant Hélène Darroze, Paris

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Photo : Champs Élisé

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