Foie Gras Frenzy
It’s foie gras season again. More than Santa, more than twinkly street lights, more than Christmas markets, Noël is announced by the sudden appearance of foie gras on every menu and in every butcher case.
It’s been one of those things that I eat when someone else prepares it, because it’s so incredibly expensive to buy fresh, high quality foie gras and I’ve been afraid of blowing it. But when I saw a lobe of duck foie gras on sale for only 18 Euros, about $25, instead of its usual 98 Euros a kilo, I decided to experiment a bit. I started out easy, simmering it whole in spiced red wine, which was a beautiful process to behold, as the golden fat oozed out into the wine most fetchingly.
Served at room temperature, with its poaching liquid reduced to a thick syrup, it was pretty darn good, although I think it’s never going to be my favorite way to eat foie gras. But now that I’ve ventured into the realm, I’ll feel a lot less nervous about making my own terrine, redolent of Cognac and Port, or serving warm nuggets of pan sautéed melting foie gras. And it made a very make-ahead nice starter for an all-duck meal.
Because really, I have to admit that my favorite thing about the season isn’t the foie gras itself, it’s the fact that the markets are flooded with all of the other duck parts, which, since they are deemed to be mere by-products of foie gras production, are ravishingly cheap. Here we have rosy slices of duck breast, served over a celery root purée and topped with a killer porcini and red wine sauce. The brilliantly green spinach cake that I learned from David Lebovitz has become one of my favorite ways to eat spinach, and goes perfectly with duck.
Here’s the recipe for the porcini sauce, which will serve you in good stead for the holidays, because it would be excellent and festive on almost anything. It’s a simple little riff, inspired by a recipe by Lynn Rosetto Kaspar, and it goes like this.
Soak the mushrooms in the hot water for 15 minutes. Remove them from the water, squeezing them over the soaking bowl. Reserve soaking liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan, add the minced shallots, and sauté them until they are translucent. Add the soaked mushrooms and sauté until they dry out and are starting to become golden. Add 1/4 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and simmer, stirring, until liquid disappears. Repeat this step with an additional 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Add the red wine and simmer until almost no liquid remains.
Stir in the butter and water and swirl to make a thick sauce. If you have a couple of tablespoons of duck or meat juices handy, from whatever the sauce it going to top, stir those in as well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
And that’s all there is to it. Its great on duck, Kaspar’s original was meant for chicken, and I think it would go perfectly with beef as well. While you’re at it, double the recipe, because you’ll eat more of this than you might imagine at the outset. And, needless to say, use the very best dried porcinis you can find.