Foie gras: moulard liver. A lobe barely edible. Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. We have the capability to make the household's first torchon of foie gras. This lobe will be that torchon. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster....or rather, better and certainly yummier.
What sort of dumbass buys foie gras, sticks it in the freezer and forgets about it for a year?
Last week, I was clearing out my freezer to make room for one of my Christmas gifts, a Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment (more on that later), and pulled out a bag of Grade B foie gras, still sealed in vacuum pack. What sort of brain wattage have I lost during my pregnancy and motherhood that I didn't even remember I had a lobe of foie gras? And for God's sake, how long had it languished in the Narnian hinterland of my freezer?
I brought the bag in to show Hubby. "Is it still edible?" he inquired. Good man. Thinking with his stomach.
Apparently vacuum sealed foie gras can survive freezing, but not for more than a year, and even then, the foie loses cellular composition, resulting in a less refined, less creamy texture. At least that's what several websites I consulted reported.
But you can't throw away foie -- apart from the wastefulness, it's also a Dack problem. (This is a situation in which there is no good way to dispose of what you have at hand, coined by a former friend, who in his case was trying to figure out how best to dispose of his deceased friend's cremated ashes, which were stuck to his hand after he spread them in a field where the two of them had grown up. "What do you do with your best friend's remains on your hands? Wipe them on your jeans? Wash it off with soap and water?" A conundrum. I digress.)
So...for years now, I've wanted to make a torchon of foie gras but I've lacked the fortitude to do so. I generally fall back on the slice and sear method of serving foie gras. But I was inspired by Carol, who writes the brilliant French Laundry at Home blog and thought, okay, why not try it? What's the worst that can happen? Apart from rendering an entire lobe of foie gras into a useless bowl of fat? Besides that, what could happen? I mean, it's already been in the freezer for crying out loud.
Keller's recipe in the French Laundry cookbook, like the man and his cooking, is deceptively simple. It looks so effortless, so elegant on the page. Then you read the recipe and you realize this is a four day process and some steps aren't too clearly articulated. Or maybe they are and I'm just an idiot. Day 1, the foie is rinsed, patted dry, then soaked in milk for 24 hours to draw out any blood.
Day 2 is deveining. One word: eeeew. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW. But devein I did, removing every damn blood vessel I could find. The lobe was completely demolished as I went about this exercise, and I chose to blindly believe Keller, who assures readers that the foie is like Play-Doh -- it can be reassembled. After deveining, the foie massacre on the kitchen counter was marinated in a salt/sugar/pepper and pink salt mixture, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and left overnight in the fridge.
Day 3, reassembly. Yeah, Keller's being truthful: you can reshape this sucker. Using parchment paper, I wound the marinated foie into a thick roll, then wrapped it in cheesecloth and prepped it for poaching. Now, Keller's recipe called for chicken stock (or water). I didn't have any chicken stock available, but I did have turkey stock, leftover from a turkey pot pie the week before (at one point, I was struck by the thought that if I did have chicken stock, I could mix it with the turkey stock, and by poaching the foie gras in the mixture, I'd have a turducken in spirit if not in letter...). Hubby happened to be passing by as I was getting ready to poach and I told him to give me a ninety
minute SECOND (ed. note: SECONDS! NOT MINUTES! SECONDS! [thanks Gigi]) countdown. Now, I have to admit: I thought ninety minutes seconds wasn't going to be enough time to actually cook anything. But as the foie roll lay in the simmering pot, and fat began to bubble to the surface, I had a moment's panic that the lobe was about to render completely into fat in the turkey stock and was on the verge of pulling it out when Hubby admonished me to believe in Keller. Okay, so we stuck it out for a full minute and half, then I plunged it into an ice bath. Amazingly, though the foie lost a bit of volume, it was still relatively intact. Next step, roll in kitchen towel, reshaping, remolding, re-rolling and tightening, then stringing it up in the fridge overnight. I can't begin to describe how I had to reshape atomic molecules in my impossibly packed fridge to make room so that the foie could be strung up.
Day 4: eating! Unrolled, the foie was gray from oxidation, but we cut thick slices and used a round cutter to get at the lush pinkish interior (I saved the scraps to make a foie gras ravioli. Keller's recipe calls for pickled cherries but I'm not fond of them so I made pickled strawberries instead. I also made the brioche ("Hubby! Hubby! I made brioche! Look how beautiful it looks!" HUBBY: "Great. Congratulations. You made something people have been making for a thousand years.").
I imagine that side by side with fresh foie there might be noticeable flavor differential but considering we haven't eaten foie in quite a while, it was absolutely delicious.
It's not likely I'll be making this again any time soon, but at least I now know that I can make a torchon. Hopefully next time it won't be a year after I've frozen a lobe of foie gras. Oy.