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