WHAT TO EAT IN FRANCE: FOIE GRAS

By Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Permalink 0

WHAT IS FOIE GRAS? READ THE FINE PRINT!

by Jonell Galloway

The French eat 90% of the foie gras they make themselves. That’s how much they like it, but they didn’t invent it. Although the Egyptians might have force-fed their birds, we’re not sure that they ate foie gras. The Greeks probably did, since the 4th-century Greek poet Archestratus wrote about it in his Gastronomy. The liver is the soul of the goose, he said.

Foie gras is made using a process called gavage, which consists of force-feeding ducks or geese through a feeding tube to fatten them. The Romans stuffed dried figs down their throats. In Latin, the word for liver even comes from fig, ficus. Scipio Metellus, a Roman chef, had the idea of soaking still warm livers in honey and milk to swell them even more before cooking.

Apart from the region of Béarn in the southwest, this practice disappeared in medieval France, coming back to life in the southwest and Alsace during the Renaissance.

French foie gras is made by force-feeding corn to geese and ducks, and still, occasionally, figs, which swells the livers.

 

Goose foie gras has traditionally been the most cherished because it is fattier, but it cannot be produced year round. Duck liver is less fatty, and can be produced year round and industrially, meeting the ever-increasing demand.

The fattened liver can be made into terrine, pâté, mousse, parfait, and a host of other things, and, in more recent times, there is a trend of cutting fresh foie gras into thin slices and pan-searing it. It can be eaten fresh or preserved in glass jars, and can be seasoned with truffles, port, Armagnac or Sauternes. Southwesterners prefer a simple, less perfumed foie gras, while Alsacians like to add flavor.

When purchasing, there are legal distinctions in names that indicate the purity and therefore determine the price:

  1. Foie gras entier means that it contains the actual lobes of the liver. The only legally allowed addition is truffles. As it’s solid, you cut it with a knife, just like you do extra-tender beef filet.
  2. Foie gras consists of pieces of liver that are put back together and pressed.
  3. Bloc de foie gras is reconstituted liver combined with other ingredients, but containing at least 50% foie gras for goose, and 30% for duck .
  4. Parfaits are preparations containing 75% foie gras and made by mechanical means, to which regular, unfattened liver is added.
  5. Médaillon or pâte de foie de canard or d’oie contains 50% duck or goose foie gras or bloc de foie gras in the middle, surrounded by forcemeat.
  6. Galantine is a butcher’s mixture of meats and other forcemeats, with no defined percentage of foie gras.
  7. Mousse contains 50% foie gras mixed with forcemeat, giving it the texture of foie gras.

Terrine is pure foie gras pressed into pâté shape.

Forcemeat can consist of one or several ingredients, including pork, veal or chicken fat; pork or chicken liver; scraps from deveining; poaching fat; eggs; milk; lactoproteins; flour, and starch.

Foie gras comes in a jar, plastic package or can or fresh from the butcher. When purchasing, be aware of the different cooking preparations, since the temperature at which it is cooked and the method of cooking change the flavor and shelf-life. Generally speaking, fresh is better.

It is important to make sure you are being sold what you ask for in both restaurants and shops. As a consumer, you have a legal right.

The French don’t eat foie gras every day. Traditionally, it is for special occasions and holiday meals, especially Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

Coming soon: What to Eat with Foie Gras

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Switzerland: Swiss-style Knepfle Pasta

By Thursday, June 13, 2013 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

Switzerland: Swiss-style Knepfle Pasta

Knepfle is originally from Alsace in France, but it is also eaten in Switzerland, in particular in the Jura region, which borders Alsace.

You can buy them at the supermarket, but they’re much better when you make them at  home.

Swiss-style Knepfle Recipe

Ingredients

3 1/3 to 4 1/10th cups unbleached white flour
3 eggs
2 cups milk
About 1/2 cup water
3 large pinches of salt
1 oz. butter
Large pan of water for boiling knepfles
Coarse sieve with large holes

Instructions

  1. Put eggs into a bowl. Add milk, water and a pinch of salt. Beat with wire whip.
  2. Little by little, use wire whip to add flour until a heavy dough is formed. The dough should fall naturally off the whip.
  3. Let dough rest for 30 to 60 min.
  4. When time is almost up, bring  large saucepan of water to boil. Add 2 pinches of salt.
  5. Heat an oven dish large enough to hold all the knepfles.
  6. NOTE: The hard part: Real pros push the dough through a coarse sieve, but this can be a bit tricky. If this is your first time making knepfles, I suggest that you drop the dough by teaspoons the first time, and try using a sieve the next time. Make sure you have a sieve with large holes before trying this.
  7. Leave water to boil gently and start dropping teaspoons of dough into water, in several goes.
  8. Let knepfles poach until they rise to the surface. This should take about 15 minutes.
  9. Use a slotted spoon to remove them. Do this carefully so they don’t fall apart. Drain well. Place in heated oven dish.
  10. Do this in steps, until all the dough is used up.
  11. To serve, over medium to medium high heat, melt butter in a frying pan (butter should be sizzling).
  12. When hot, add dry knepfles and brown, carefully turning them from time to time. Cook until browned, about 15 minutes.
  13. Serving: There are many ways to serve knepfles: plain, with cream or bacon bits, or with other sauces.
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Culinary Travel: Jonell Takes a Jaunt to Petite France in Strasbourg, a photo essay

By Thursday, June 6, 2013 Permalink 0


Culinary Travel: Jonell Takes a Jaunt to Petite France in Strasbourg

Husband Peter and I recently took a jaunt to Strasbourg with our German “family”, the Joerchels, to eat in a cozy little bistro in the heart of Petite France, the canal district of Strasbourg. Here’s a sample of the architecture and atmosphere of Petite France.

 

 

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