Foie Gras au Chocolat
A ban on the sale of foie gras went into effect on July 1, 2012 in California, perhaps ending a long-standing annual tradition of cooking this delicacy for six food-loving friends. (See my story "On a Wild Goose Chase" for more about this tradition.) Sidney and I decided to celebrate one more time just before the ban went into effect. We invited the usual participants, plus a couple more, to our country house for the weekend. To get us in the mood, everyone gathered for a Saturday lunch of foie gras pizza from my wood-burning oven. Another foie gras preparation would start our evening meal and I wanted it to be spectacular— something new, something startling, something exotic. A recipe in Jean-Charles Karmann’s book Les Meilleures Recettes de Foie Gras (Paris: Editions de La Martinière, 2010) caught my eye. It reminded me of the countless bûches de Nöel we made during the winter holiday season when I had a bakery. One version, chocolate mousse enclosed in a thin sheet of almond biscuit, was a favorite. In the book’s recipe flattened foie gras took the place of the biscuit. It would be like a bûche but savory instead of sweet.
On the first reading, I was dubious. Foie gras can be difficult to handle. Too cold, and it breaks like cold butter; too warm, and it melts. I knew it would take some patience to make the recipe work. I’ve never had foie gras with chocolate, but the possibility was intriguing. I sampled the chocolates I had on hand and decided on Valrhona’s Nyangbo, a 68% chocolate with deep stone fruit flavors.
I have departed from the recipe in Karmann’s book, changing the poaching liquid and drastically reducing the cooking time. But I thank him for the notion of pairing chocolate with foie gras. It’s a revelation.
1 Rolled and Poached Foie Gras au Chocolat, 10 servings
The Foie Gras:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons piment d’espelette
1 duck foie gras, about 1 pound, deveined, close to room temperature
The Poaching Liquid:
1 2/3 cups late harvest white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
Prepare the Foie Gras:
Put the chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl and melt over simmering water. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the salt and piment d’espelette into the chocolate. Let the chocolate cool to room temperature. If it hardens, warm slightly over simmering water.
Have two large double-thickness pieces of cheesecloth ready.
Arrange the almost-room-temperature foie between two pieces of wax paper on a work surface. Gently flatten with a rolling pin into a rectangle about 10 inches by 7 inches and ½-inch thick. Remove the top layer of wax paper.
Evenly spread the cool chocolate mixture over the flattened foie gras. Starting at one of the long ends, roll up the foie gras into a cylinder, using the wax paper underneath to help you. Transfer the cylinder to one piece of cheesecloth and roll the cheese cloth around the foie gras. Roll it one more time in the second piece of cheesecloth. Press it as needed so that the cylinder is an even thickness. Snugly tie off the ends with kitchen twine. Tie the cylinder three more times at evenly spaced intervals.
Poach the Foie Gras:
Fill a bowl large enough to hold the foie gras comfortably with ice cubes and cold water.
Choose a cooking vessel that will hold the wrapped foie gras snugly. Put the wine and stock in the vessel. You may not need it all, depending on the size of the cooking vessel. Add the salt and white pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil. Gently lower the foie into the liquid. It should be immersed. Immediately turn down the heat so that the liquid is at a slow simmer. Poach the foie until it feels slightly firm, 4 or 5 minutes. Immediately remove the foie from the poaching liquid and plunge it into the ice to arrest the cooking. When it is cool, put it into a terrine. Pour the poaching liquid into a bowl and put it over the ice until it cools to room temperature. Pour the cool liquid over the foie. It should be immersed. Cover the top with foil and weight it. (It’s wise to put it in a shallow pan or baking sheet to catch any overflow.) Refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.
Serve the Foie Gras:
Remove the foie from the terrine. Remove the cheesecloth. (Save the poaching liquid; it’s great for poaching eggs.) Using a sharp knife, dipped in hot water as needed, slice the foie into ½-inch disks. Arrange on serving plates. If cherries or plums are in season, add a few whole cherries or slices of plum to each plate. If the fruit isn’t available a garnish of crisp lettuce makes a nice contrast. Pass a basket of sliced baguette on the side.