Step by step recipe:
- 2 min.
De-veining:Take the liver out of the fridge at least two hours beforehand, so it will be at room temperature and soft.
Rinse it thoroughly under warm water to eliminate any remaining traces of blood.
- Pull the two lobes apart gently.
- 20 min.Pull the veins carefully towards you and remove them, without breaking or cutting, by passing your fingers underneath and following them right to the end.
This is the first tricky stage of the recipe. Your hands will get very greasy (to be expected with a foie gras, you might say), and you should not leave any veins, or as few as possible.
- 1 min.You might feel more comfortable working in fine rubber (surgical) gloves.
I recommend using a vegetable peeler as the point does the job quite well.
Another tip: have a bowl or a large cup in front of you and scrape the sticky veins off the blade into this as you work.
- 1 min.Once done, don't worry about the forlorn look of the liver – it's past caring!
- 30 min.To remove any traces of blood, put the liver in cold water with a tablepoonful of coarse salt and some ice cubes added, for half an hour.
Then rinse the liver under running cold water and dry on absorbant paper.
- 1 min.Line a wide oven-proof (gratin) dish with cooking-grade plastic film.
This is not essential, it just makes cleaning the dish afterwards much easier.
- 2 min.Spread the liver out in the dish in a single layer, as far as possible.
- 2 min.
Seasoning:Start by adding the alcohol. Trickle a few shlurps of Armagnac and Porto over the liver.
You only need a little, otherwise the flavour of the booze will dominate over that of the liver, which is a shame.
- 4 min.Weigh and mix the seasonings: salt, pepper, sugar and "quatre épices" spice blend (see below*). Do calculate these quantities carefully and respect the following proportions:7 g salt and 2 g pepper for 600 g liver.
The best way to do this is by using precise scales, but you can also measure them: 1 level teaspoon = 5 g of fine salt or 2.5 g of ground pepper (or near enough).
This is the second tricky stage of the recipe. It is important to use the right quantity of salt for the weight of liver. To help you, here is a little automatic calculator.
- 2 min.After weighing the correct amounts, mix the seasonings and scatter the mixture over the liver.
To spread them more evenly, scatter half, then turn the pieces of liver before adding the other half.
- 12 hoursCover the seasoned liver in its dish with a plastic film and refrigerate overnight.
Please note: the liver's maturing time in the fridge is important for the flavour. If you don't do this, it will still be good, but not quite as good as if left overnight.
- 2 hoursNext day, the liver is ready to be cooked. Take out of the fridge and remove the plastic film at least 2 hours before cooking.
- 40 min.Preheat the oven to 210°F (100°C), preferably without fan - quite unnecessary at such a low temperature.
Stick a thermometer into the thickest part of the liver and put in the oven.
If you'd like to keep the liver "pink", cook until the temperature reaches 122°F (50°C). For "mi-cuit" (just properly cooked, but not overdone), cook until it reaches 149°F (65°C).
If you don't have a thermometer, count 30 minutes cooking for "pink" and 45/50 minutes for "mi-cuit". Unfortunately, these times can only be approximate as your oven and the room temperature will have a marked effect on the cooking. In other words, as soon as you can, buy yourself a thermometer.
- After cooking, the liver looks unattractive swimming in its fat and cooking juices, but don't worry, this is perfectly normal.
- Now it's time to pack the terrine with the pieces of liver.
Use a skimmer to fish the pieces of liver out of the dish, drain them...
- 5 min....and transfer to the terrine.
If you intend turning out the terrine later, choose the best-looking and largest pieces first to go in the bottom and finish up with the smaller ones (as in the photo).
- If, on the other hand, you will be serving the terrine straight from the dish, save the best pieces until last (like in this photo).
This cooking method, inspired by chef Eric Leautey, is very efficient as the centre of the liver gets up to temperature more rapidly when it is in a thin layer. This is the method I use for years.
- Finish the terrine by pouring over a little of the molten fat from the cooking dish.
- This is not just an attractive finishing touch; once set, it will help the terrine keep better.
- The final stage is to compact the terrine a little. I use a block of polystyrene cut to fit the shape of the dish (but a piece of thick cardboard would do just as well), covered with aluminium foil. I place this on top of the contents of the terrine and stand two jars of jam on top. The weight of the full jars is enough to press the terrine.
Leave to cool for 2 hours at room temperature, then refigerate.
- 4 daysThe "press" contraption can be removed after a couple of hours in the fridge.
Your terrine should be left for at least 4 days in the fridge before eating, to give time for the flavour to mature fully.
Remarks:If you want a more natural taste, more pure foie gras, you can reduce the alcohol in this recipe to just one tablespoonful (or omit).
Again on the subject of alcohol, there is no need to be strict on the type or their number. Cognac and Armagnac are much the same (for the purposes of this recipe, at least); the same goes for sherry and port, or other fortified wines like Marsala, Maury, Madeira, etc.
For bread which goes best with foie gras, resist the temptation to use sliced industrial bread, or even worse brioche or other rich sweet bread (too soft, too sweet, too similar to foie gras). Better to use a more acidic, rustic bread like a classic "pain de campagne". For me, the best of all will always be a leaven-raised bread.
If you are worried about tackling this recipe, you can start with the easier method in terrine of foie gras.
If, like me, you are a foie gras aficionado but have a problem with the tradition of force-feeding geese, there is a glimmer of hope: check this out.
*In France, a blend of spices is sold as "quatre épices". You can make your own by mixing ground pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.
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And to drink?
|One can discuss at length what wine to drink with foie gras but, at the risk of being controversial, I don't think a Sauternes goes at all well. Such a sweet wine is already too close to the sweet richness of the foie gras.|
I suggest you try a dry white wine instead, which can bring out the flavour of the foie gras by contrasting with it. Why not a "Cotes du Jura blanc" (those from the Domaine Rolet in Arbois (France) are excellent).
If you really prefer a sweet wine, try something less sweet than a Sauternes, like "Coteaux du Layon, Croix blanche" a wine from the Loire valley, (those made by Sylvie Termeau at Rochefort/Loire are perfect).