It’s been so hectic that I haven’t had a minute to blog about Christmas eve, our biggest, most outlandish, most extravagant meal of the year. Christmas in our family has always meant marathon feasts. As a child in France, we alternated Christmas dinner between our house and my aunt’s house. Every year, the host family would try to outdo last year’s meal, an undisguised rivalry that yielded great dividends for all attending. My mother would tend to focus on top-notch sides and appetizers while my aunt and her husband usually raised the bar with exotic main courses like suckling pig and whole venison. After one gruesome vision of a discarded antler on the kitchen counter one night, I learned to stay put at the table and focus on the dinner in front of me.
Now that my sisters and I live in the States, we still go all out for Christmas eve, cooking all the dishes we enjoyed as kids during the Reveillon de Noel and many American ones that we’ve added to the roster.
There are many items that make the menu every year. We always begin with a few appetizer courses like freshly shucked oysters and smoked salmon toasts before moving on to turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and carrot souffle. And we always conclude with a chocolatey Buche de Noel (yule tide log) for dessert. But if you were to ask any of my sisters which is the one item that represents Christmas dinner for them, I know without the shadow of a doubt that they would all answer: Foie Gras.
We each begin our feast with one generous slice of rich, savory Foie Gras terrine. Many Americans don’t understand the appeal of foie gras. When I mention how much I crave this expensive treat, they ask, “What’s the big deal? Is it pate? Why is it so good? Why is it so expensive?” I certainly don’t want to go into the disturbing process of how Foie Gras is made in this post. It’s one of those things I’ve chosen not to dwell too much on. You can call me shallow, you can call me cruel, but I won’t give up my Foie Gras, even if they have outlawed it in Chicago.
In years past, we’ve ordered our foie gras terrine from D’Artagnan, and waited breathlessly for the next day air delivery of the terrine packed in dry ice. But for the last couple of years, we’ve been disappointed with their foie gras, finding it lacking in seasoning and salt. So this year, I bought a raw lobe at the North Market Poulty and and Game stand, and made my own terrine.
Even with my mother at my side, I was pretty terrified to fool around with such expensive ingredients. Our raw foie gras cost over a hundred dollars, and I didn’t want to be the one to ruin the cornerstone of our meal. But thanks to my mother’s experience, and the clear instructions of the French recipe site 750 Grammes, our foie gras was as wonderful as we’d hoped, and it was surprisingly easy to make.
Foie Gras Terrine
1 pound of raw foie gras (duck or goose)
5 oz of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
6 teaspoons of a sweet wine such as Sauternes
- Submerge the lobes in room temperature water for an hour.
- Remove the lobes, dry them, and place them on a cutting board. Separate them. Make three slits in each lobe and delicately remove the dark nerves. These will be very obvious as the bulk of the liver will be yellow, and the nerve will be dark and bloody. Remove as many of the veins as possible. Don’t worry too much about cutting up the liver as it will melt back together while baking.
- Place the cleaned livers in a terrine. Press down on them with the palm of your hand and cover with the salt, pepper, sugar, and wine. Put the terrine in the fridge to macerate for 12 hours.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Boil some water and pour water in a large shallow oven-safe dish.
- Place the terrine in the simmering water (in a bain Marie), this will ensure even cooking. Place the terrine in the water dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. The foie will have shrunk down by 1/2 inch by then.
- Remove from the water bath and let the foie cool at room temperature for 3 hours.
- Weigh down the foie with a cardboard covered with foil topped with some cans to really push it down. Place it in the fridge for 24 hours to finish the process.
- Your foie gras is now ready to eat with some toasted brioche or challah bread.