foie torchon

Foie torchon served with apple, balsamic, toast, sea salt. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Foie gras has a reputation for being fancy.  Many don’t understand what it is.  When I served my dad a seared slice of foie gras, the liver of a fattened duck, he looked at it surprised. “I thought foie gras was pâté,” he said. Often foie gras is made into a pâté, but not always. Foie gras can be sliced and seared in a very hot pan, no oil, crisp on the outside, molten within. It can be roasted whole. Or it can be made into a torchon as Bob del Grosso described on Monday, with a product he and Chef Pardus developed for Hudson Valley foie gras, and served cold. Either way it doesn’t taste like liver, at all.  It’s sweet and fatty, more like butter than liver.

To make a “torchon” (French for dish towel), you remove the veins from the liver, wrap it in a dishtowel, poach it very gently, and chill it (there are a few other steps but that’s the gist; I’ll post an actual recipe and technique on Monday).

But then what?  You’ve either made it yourself or bought one from Hudson Valley.  Do you have to spend hours on a sauce and garnishes and make, like, a church service around it?  Force everyone in the room go quiet and genuflect before savoring the great gift of foie gras?

Please, no.  At home serve it like you’d put a salami on a board and cut away at. How do you serve salami? With bread and something acidic and savory, like mustard and pickles.

For the above foie gras torchon, I grilled some baguette slices (I’d have toasted brioche if I’d had it—brioche and foie were made for each other), and served it with some diced Granny Smith apple, doused with lemon juice and seasoned with pepper, and some reduced balsamic vinegar (crema di balsamico, love this stuff).  You want something acidic and sweet to balance the richness and enhance the flavor.  It’s traditionally served with a Sauternes, an expensive sweet wine.  But I like it better with Champagne or a spicy Gewurztraminer. No need to get all hushed and candlelighty about it.

Yes, it’s expensive and rarefied and amazingly delicious, so appreciate it.  Revel. Whoop. Enjoy it!

Update 4/28: Reading a comment below, I realize I’ve neglected certain important information about serving foie gras at home.  First of all, this stuff is very rich, it’s almost pure fat. So you don’t need a lot of it. The above portion is a full portion and all you would need.  You could serve it on a plate as first course.

Second, because this cylinder of calorie-dense deliciousness serves many, what do you do if you’re few? Most high-fat foods freeze very well (butter, ice cream). So does foie gras. If you wanted to invest in a torchon—it’s pricey food—as a couple, I would portion and freeze it. Wrap each portion very well in plastic or better, seal them in a Ziploc vacuum plastic bag (I love this product, the ones that require a plastic pump), and freeze them.  Better still, double bag them in a black bag to keep out the light.

The drawbacks of freezing: fat can pick up freezer odors if left too long. Oxygen can dehydrate the fat resulting in freezer burn and off flavors. And light can harm it. (Thus vacuum-sealing and putting in a dark bag.)

So, when I made it, or received it in the mail, I’d first cut off both ends, wrap and refrigerate them to use in a few days in Jonathan Sawyer’s clams below (a badder-ass 3-minute minute meal has yet to be created).  I’d cut too fat slices share with with Donna at the end of the week on some celebratory occasion, with champagne.  And the rest I’d serve to guests, thawing as needed and creating very special individual canapés.

I’d love to hear other suggestions one might use smaller portions.

If you liked this post on torchon, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


41 Wonderful responses to “Serving Foie Gras At Home”

  • corey

    i once had a tempura battered, deep fried slice of foie. crispy outside, molten interior like you said…. to quote george costanza, “i think it moved a little”

  • Nelly Rodriguez

    I love how you’ve removed the “fanciness” of it and now I won’t have to say a Holy Father before eating Foie. And comparing it to how you eat salami, puts some perspective on it. Just eat and enjoy 🙂 Now, if only I could find foie gras in the Dominican Republic…

  • eatwisconsin

    When I sautee a slice of foie I like to use the residual fat in the pan to sautee some diced apples then add balsamic to that. Pairs wonderfully.

  • Ann Drew

    Expense be damned! I’m ordering this for my birthday (unfortunately some months away), besides this temptation there’s a bottle of 1970 Chateau d’Yquem that I have saved for over thirtysome years.

    The wait is up! Time to enjoy it all!

    • Foop

      Try and a friend that owns or works in a nice restaurant and go through them to get it. Often, commercial purveyors that won’t typically sell to an individual are willing to sell to a front or back house employee of a restaurant that is a good customer. While not inexpensive, once you remove the retail markup on a whole liver, it becomes much more approachable in price….sort of like the shoulders of Duroc I’m gonna buy for $2.65 a pound from one of my restaurant’s suppliers. It would easily be twice that in a store.

  • Georgia Pellegrini

    I love foie gras, always have. There is a man in France(?) who makes it without force feeding the ducks in the same way they have been, for those who avoid it on moral grounds. I used to eat it with pickled mustard seed.

  • The Expatresse

    I buy an onion jam that goes wonderfully with foie. Something like the British Branston Pickle would be really good, too. I’ve never cared much for brioche with it . . . too sweet to my taste. But I know it is a classic pairing.

    I always have some foie in my fridge. But I can buy packages of two slices here (I am a lucky girl, and I live in Luxembourg these days).

  • Nancy Singleton Hachisu

    I’m still feeling a bit disconnected here in Japan (albeit 200 km from the reactor, so not too horribly close).

    But since you and Donna are two of my most favorite people on this earth (um, Club Med bar…pool party…beach siestas) I cannot let this post go without comment.

    I just got back from my friends’ foie gras farm in the Dordogne recently–they are the family that mentored the Sonoma Foie Gras people. Danie gave me a copy of The Foie Gras Wars and there you were on the back of the book with a blurb, small world. I haven’t read the whole thing, but Mark Caro’s description of his time at the Dubois farm portrays it exactly. We’ve been going there for 13 years, they are special people.

    As you well know, foie gras was traditionally a special holiday treat in France.

    For the countrywomen of France, gavage (and making foie gras) was the only source of their own income. They would “gave” only a few birds, keeping half the foie gras for the family for Christmas or New Year and the other half they would sell for pocket money.

    I visited the Dubois family in late January of this year and we talked a bit more of this world phenomena that vilifies foie gras. Danie said to me, “Foie gras was something we ate for special holiday occasions all over France, but now people eat it any time…without thinking.”

    Maybe that is the problem. Greed.

    [Sorry for the excess verbiage…not sure what overtakes me.]

  • Laurence

    We had the torchon at Per Se, and I made the one from the French Laundry cookbook. Amazing. Actually, no words are adequate.

  • Mantonat

    When I was in my 20s, I was treated to a 2 week tour of Europe by the company I worked for. The last leg was in London, where we went to an incredible restaurant that had foie gras on the menu (there were no prices). I didn’t really know what it was, but I knew it was supposed to be good. Everything was ordered family style so I took some of the foie gras (which was a torchon similar to the one in your picture only with a layer of leeks in the middle) and passed it along. The plate came around the table and nobody else took any. I ended up eating the whole thing myself – it must have been at least half a pound! I felt like Henry VIII. These days I am a little more judicious in my consumption, especially since I know exactly what it is and how much it costs.

  • Walt

    A foie gras at home post on my birthday! Thanks for a great gift Michael! Can’t wait to see the technique post next Monday.

  • Casey

    Nice post. I’m actually not a fan of seared foie. I love all things fatty but sometimes seared foie can seem too oily to me, I prefer a half poach method. Simply slice foie, season and place in cold pan with coconut water or whatever you like and place over medium heat. When the liquid begins to boil then start basting with a large spoon until the foie is just warmed through. Add a squeeze of lime and serve over rice with some fried ginger on top for texture and you got an awesome dish. Maybe some soy sauce if your in the mood.

  • Laurence

    So I caved. I ordered a torchon. As Oscar Wilde said, the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.

  • chris k

    This post raises some interesting questions:

    What dish deserves getting all “hushed and candlelighty” over, if any? Does such a rare comestible exist? Is there any food held in such high regard and reverence that it approaches sacrosanctity?

    Off the top of my head, I can think of only one: fugu. Simply because it’ll kill you, if not prepared correctly. But that’s an issue of mortality risk, not aesthetics.

    …but on the subject of foie gras, Dan Barber gave a great presentation at TED three years ago. You can view it here:

  • allen

    If this is food porn then this is some serious wacking material! I think I’ll go hole up like Howard Hughes in his later years with these last two post.

  • rockandroller

    Looking at your pic, that one slice would almost be enough food for me for dinner. And then there’s all that leftover, and it’s not something we can have every day given our joint borderline high cholesterol. How long does the foie keep and what’s the recommended method for storage?

  • ruhlman

    Ben and the others who have mentioned the Barber Ted talk. It’s riveting. Barber is a born story-teller. Best chef-story-teller there is. That should be his title.

    Rockandroller. Excellent question, should have addressed. Yes, the portion shown in the second photo is a full serving. This is not a guac and dip hors d’oeuvres. This is very rich, composed almost entirely of fat.

    I’ll address your other question in the post, as I should have to begin with.

    • bob del Grosso

      If Bourdain is a chef, then he is the best chef-storyteller I know. Also, Gabrielle Hamilton, she’s the best chef storyteller I know too (and there is no question about her chef creds!)

  • DaleJ

    Let me ask the same question that I asked in he last thread:

    I’ve made torchons from TFL recipe and now have a SVSupreme. What temp and how long to SV a torchon?

    • bob del Grosso

      If you are doing it in a restaurant or at home, set the water bath temp to 100 deg F. After the internal temp of the torchon comes to 98-99 deg F hold it there for an hour. Make sure to let the vacuumed torchon come to room temp before you put it in the water bath.

    • bob del Grosso

      I should add that if you cook it the way I suggested you cook it for restaurant customers that you inform them that the torchon is cooked “Mi-cuit” or half cooked.

  • Barton

    I work on yachts and their always seems to be a whole lobe of foie in a freezer somewhere. Can I blame the frozen product on my poor torchons or do i have to blame my tools? For me foie is one of the few reasons fine dining still appeals, I want it cooked by stars

    • bob del Grosso

      Barton, Foie can be frozen but it’s best to do it in liquid nitrogen. Otherwise, the slow freezing that is typical in conventional freezers will cause the formation of big water crystals that punch holes in the liver cells and turn the foie to mush.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Believe it or not there is a phenomenon that Quebec people suffer from and that is ‘too much foie gras.’ Yes it is a disease not yet world-wide and sometimes comes in a can if you happen to have nailed a reservation at the famed Pied de Cochon. Otherwise it is available for take-out, providing you do not use an electric can opener.:)) It is truly a dish to die for or because of.

  • kaela @ local kitchen

    Oh no, my secret is out! Well, I’ll tell you… in Boston & Manhattan, in San Fran & Monterey, in Paris & Lyon, and even Barcelona; friends jockey to sit next to me at fine French restaurants. Because they know that any foie gras on my plate will surreptitiously end up on theirs.

    It takes a village. My advice is: sit next to the foie gras hater! 🙂

  • Zeiss conquest

    Wow that looks absolutely delicious. Foie Gras is an acquired taste. The first time I tried it, I didn’t like it at all. But then I tried again some time later and I start to enjoy it. I don’t think I could ever make it at home though.

  • Kitchen Boy

    This is first time I’m hear that thing called Foie Gras. Can anyone tell me what is benefit using it on our cooking recipe ?

  • Carl D

    The photography of the foie gras is excellent. I will consider trying this at home.

  • ks

    Hi, so a regular duck liver , meaning a non fattened duck, is not real foie gras? will it taste different than a fattened duck foie gras?


  1.  How To Make a Foie Gras Torchon | Michael Ruhlman