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Jun 18, 2009 03:33 PM

can someone please answer my naive question about preparations of foie gras?

I have been coming regularly to France for many years but I have never been able to figure out the following. I love foie gras lobes grilled or sauted but I don't like the foie gras pate that seems to go by the same name of foie gras but is more terrine or pate like than a whole lobe. (I hope the way I am distinguishing these two versions of foie gras makes sense. For example, I have a French friend who, thinking I like foie gras, keeps giving me cans of the more pate-like version that's more liked chopped or finely milled foie gras than the whole lobe which seems to me to be closer to a steak in form and consistency and which is what I like.) How do I know on a restaurant menu which they mean when they say "foie gras"? It seems that in most cases they mean the pate but I don't always see any indications on the menu that would seem to make this absolutely clear. Am I being obtuse or is the distinction in fact not always apparent?


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  1. My experience is that most restaurants do indicate the preparation method.

    Most always when you see it described as foie gras mi cuit or foie gras poelee you are getting slices of lobe cooked. Also if you see it listed as foie gras entier (whole) you are typically getting a whole lobe that has been cooked in some way.

    Other preparations that are not going to be the lobes or slices of lobe cooked are:

    foie gras au torchon - goose or duck liver that has been minced and pressed into a tube shape, lightly poached usually, and sliced into rounds.

    terrine de foie gras - usually minced and pressed into a rectangular pan and served sliced.

    Foie gras creme brulee - quite a treat in my opinon, minced, mixed with cream, milk and eggs, and baked in a water bath, delicious.

    Mousse au foie gras - minced and mixed with I guess beaten egg whites to form a very light textured item.

    I am sure there are other preparations but I do not think I have ever seen a menu that just says foie gras leaving the diner to truly no clue about the preparation method.

    4 Replies
    1. re: f2dat06

      This is incredibly helpful. Thanks! I guess in referring to listings where no prep is specified, I was thinking of cases where foie gras is listed as a component of something else -- for example, a salade aux gesiers et foie gras. My guess is that that will usually mean not the sauteed lobe but morsels of a more mousse-like version, right?

      1. re: adorno

        A couple of additional points.

        I had thought "Au torchon" was a whole lobe that had been poached, usually in a cloth, I didn't think it was minced. There are also legal requirements for pate and mouse which mean it has 50% foie gras content, and "Parfait de foie gras" has 75%. And then there is also "Bloc de foie gras" which is 98% Foie Gras which has been cooked and pressed.

        As f2dat06 says the menu will be quite specific if it is fresh foie gras that is cooked to order (and it needs to be cooked to order) rather than a cold pre-prepped dish like a pate. Fresh foie gras is a very expensive and difficult to cook, and that is why the freshly cooked ones are not that common. Because of the very high content if you get the cooking wrong the whole thing just melts into a pool of fat, obviously not a risk a restaurant will take unless they have skilled cooks thus fresh foie gras tends to be in better restaurants. For the same reason it isn't likely anyone will cook fresh foie gras for a salad unless you are in a top spot.

        1. re: adorno

          It's not a naive question, and I'm glad you asked it, because the same thing has been bugging me for a while. It's the same thing in both France and the UK - often people/restaurant menus refer to both the freshly cooked stuff and the mousse/bloc as just foie gras - often without mentioning the preparation method - and it's really misleading. I guess if the bloc is 98% foie gras, then it's not untrue to describe it as such, it's just that it's a completely different dish from the freshly cooked.

          Thanks for the info, f2dat06 - I'll check menus in future to see if they do give an indication as to preparation methods which I've missed in the past.

        2. re: f2dat06

          Good explanation, fdat06,

          Just to add seared foie gras is fois gras cuit (cooked) or mi-cuit (half-cooked, what I prefer.

          I love the seared, and it's definitely more flavorful than poached foie gras, often referred to as foie gras au torchon. Torchon means collar, and it refers to the arc-shaped bag that resembles/ The foie gras lobe is placed in a towel or muslin sack that looks like a collar (which is the meaning of torchon), usually curved in shape so it resembles the lobe (all livers are giant arcs).

        3. I recently had a foie gras appetizer at a french restaurant. There were 2 choice, a foie gras terrine and a Tranche de foie gras poelee. The Poelee were seared slices of foie gras with a fabulous fruit and wine reduction on it, or actually a bit to the side. I also had an entree of duck that came with an apple foie gras cake. That had a puff pastry on top of the little dish it came in and under the pastry were baked apples with a couple pieces of foie gras (not a pate) sitting in the middle. Goodness was that good. A good rule of thumb is that if it says seared in the description you will not get a pate type dish. It will be slices.

          6 Replies
          1. re: danhole

            Exactly Danhole. The preferred method, at least in LA, is to sear the lobes. Also, you can always ask your waiter how exactly it is prepared. I always quiz mine!

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Just because it says bloc does not mean it is 98%. In France on Bloc they have to tell the %. Also becareful that it is not reconstituted. I have always found when buying, mi cuit, slightly cooked, is best but has to be refrigerated. Or lobes in the jars. Bloc in can usually is a lesser quality. I do believe that you can order whole Foie from several companys on the net, sear you own..............

              1. re: wineman3

                I have to admit I have no idea what you're referring to when you say Bloc.

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  bloc is usually a canned product.....rectangular can.........hence bloc

                2. re: wineman3

                  I understood the percentage of Foie Gras in the "bloc" was regulated by law in France and it couldn't be legally sold unless it met the standards. Some sources say it must be 98%, others say 90%. Isn't the percentage on the package the percentage of whole chunks (morceaux) of Foie in the bloc?

                  Some Bloc is sold in cans, other Bloc is vacuum packed, I don't think the name refers to the can, it is simply the name of the traditional preparation.

                  Parfait (75%) and pate (50%) also are regulated legal requirements in France.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    could be right phil and as I understand there are laws but how they apply I do not know other than that have to have by law the percentage of Foie on the label.
                    I have never seen the jars that are vacuum packed say bloc.....I have a Frenchman working for me so I shall ask to see if he knows but if I am not mistaken bloc is canned and basically the same process as the jar. From my experience the jar is usually a higher percentage ol lobes and generally tastes better. Mi cuit is above the canned and jars because it is only foie.