Foie Gras with Apple and Caramelized Onion
of the most interesting things I learned while working on
my last cookbook, Foie Gras
A Passion, is that
much of the European, and especially French tradition of raising
geese, fattening them, and cooking with the fat and the fattened
liver comes from Ashkenazi culture. Jewish women in Medieval
Europe would raise and fatten geese as a source of income.
The rendered fat, gense schmaltz in Yiddish, would be used
to cook just about everything, sweet and savory, almost as
a substitute for lard. And the prized liver would be reserved
for special occasions, such as the Passover seder. I take
great pleasure in knowing that the historical antecedent of
modern-day chopped liver was actually foie gras.
recipe, though given to me by my friend Dano in upstate New
York, actually has its roots in old Jewish cooking. It is
similar to a classic recipe for "Goose Liver, Old Jewish
Law" that appeared in the 1901 German cookbook Ausfuhrliches
Kochbuch, and that had been made for a long time before that.
will need a beautiful foie gras and some extra duck liver.
(Although goose foie gras would be more historically accurate,
it is not produced in this country.) Don't be nervous about
cooking foie gras; nothing could be simpler than this dish,
Although the original recipe called for cooking the apples
with the liver, you can add them to the hot fat at the end
of the cooking process so they remain tart and crisp, and
are therefore better suited to cut through the richness of
the liver. Serve it with a large loaf of challah or peasant
bread, and encourage your guests to spread the liver on the
bread along with the onions, apples, and fat. Though not quite
a substitute for chopped liver, this dish is nevertheless
a welcome addition to any holiday feast.
Makes 12 to 14 appetizer
1/4 pounds (about 2 cups) rendered duck fat (available from
www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com or www.dartagnan.com)
large yellow onions (1 1/2 pounds), sliced thinly
medium cloves garlic, minced
whole Grade-A foie gras, about 1 1/2 pounds, cleaned of
any visible surface imperfections (available from www.hudsonvalleyfoiegras.com
teaspoons kosher salt
ground black pepper
large, sweet eating apples (1 pound), such as Golden Delicious,
Mutsu, or Gala
the oven to 300°F. In a large sauté pan set over
medium-high heat, melt the duck fat. Add the sliced onion
and cook until lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add
the garlic and continue cooking an additional 2 or 3 minutes
until soft. Transfer this mixture to a deep 10-inch baking
dish. Meanwhile, season the whole foie gras with the salt
and pepper. Bury the foie gras, smooth side up, in the onion
and fat mixture so that it is more than half way covered with
the fat. Set in the middle of the preheated oven and bake
for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the liver feels
firm. It will have released some of its fat and shrunk somewhat,
but it will still be more or less in tact.
the liver is baking, peel, quarter, and core the apples. Cut
the quarters into slices. As soon as you remove the foie gras
from the oven, place the apple slices in the hot fat surrounding
the liver. Cool to room temperature in the baking dish on
a wire rack. The foie gras should be served at room temperature
or slightly warmed in the baking dish with plenty of challah.
Guests should just dig in with a knife to get some liver,
and spread it onto the bread with some of the apple, onion,
and duck fat from the pan. Yum.
much fat? Well, first let me say that the people of Gascony,
France's foie gras region, who consume more saturated fat
than any population on the planet, and in the form of duck
liver, no less, also happen to have the longest life expectancy.
That's the French paradox. Shut up, pour yourself a glass
of red wine, and enjoy.
I made a smaller amount? You can really only make one liver's
worth of this dish because once you start cutting into the
liver, it looses its fat more readily and tends to disintegrate
when it is baked. Besides, this is a dish for special occasions
gras is considered one of the most luxurious culinary indulgences.
And throughout history, because it was produced by Jewish
butchers, the question of its kosher status has been seriously
scrutinized. It just so happens Israel is one of the world's
largest producers of foie gras today, and much of it is kosher.
The ducks are scrupulous observed to make sure they are not
injured in the process of making the liver. And then the liver
is koshered like any other liver.