Variety meats, called offal in Britain, were not uncommon dinner entrees when I was growing up. By the time I was 10 years old I was well acquainted with brains, tripe, kidneys, sweetbreads and other such fare. My favourite at that time was cow tongue which I adored eating cold the next day in a sandwich, sliced thinly and spread with chutney.
I never admitted this to my school peers however, already well aware of how disgusted they would be to know that I not only ate these things, but that I actually liked them. Liver was always on the top of every school kids list of "most vile things to be served for dinner". Strangely enough though, many kids didnt mind the occasional liverwurst sandwich.
My dad used to fry up a pan of liver and onions on a regular basis but his eyes would glaze over when he reminisced about eating foie gras when he still lived in Europe. He would shake his head lamenting that the real delicacy could not be had in this country.
Foie gras does not belong to the offal category of foods despite being liver. It is a supremely exquisite, highly expensive culinary luxury. At its best, it has the texture of butter and similarly melts on the tongue when eaten. My brothers girlfriend regularly scans restaurant menus, judging their culinary worth by whether they include foie gras or not. In one of my cookbooks, the author guiltily admits to saving the butter that she sauteed foie gras in even freezing it. She uses the drippings in her cooking to give that extra flavour boost to things like sauteed mushrooms, roast potatoes or omelettes.
Due to the prohibitive cost of foie gras it remains a luxury that I seldom indulge in. You can imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to attend a foie gras tasting menu at Val dIsere last week. Despite a last minute invite, I scrambled for a babysitter there was no way I would miss this!
Roland Pfaff, chef/owner of Val dIsere, stood behind a table laden with foie gras as the star ingredient. The event was hosted by Hills Foods Ltd. who had invited local restaurateurs, chefs and servers to showcase the product. Select Wine Merchants provided a selection of different wines that complemented the food. Special guests also in attendance were Élisé and Annette Francois, the producers of the duck foie gras sampled.
Foie gras is difficult and messy to prepare in the kitchen. It is wonderful pan seared in butter but the pan needs to be smoking hot and the foie gras seared quickly to prevent it from turning into a liquid puddle.