I’ll be honest, when I was younger and had just started working in kitchens around the Twin Cities, I wanted to cook foie gras because it was expensive and, because it was expensive. All the famous French chefs I loved used it, and I wanted to be like them, cook their way. During the fall of 2010, I got my first shot at using it. Not only was I in charge of cooking it, but I got to make up the preparation that would accompany it as well. I was given plenty of freedom, but I do remember there were a couple guidelines I was told that went along with it.
1. The foie was to be served on toast.
This makes sense since it is a bit floppy on the plate and without some texture to ground it, it could slide all over. Also, foie is pure fat, and after it’s cooked, it will continue to weep fat on the plate, which could interfere with any accompanying sauces and making the plate look greasy, so putting it on a piece of toast will take care of that.
2. The foie should be served with a sauce that is a bit sweet and acidic
Now regular liver is great smothered in bacon and onions, but foie would be incredibly rich served like this. A bit of a fruity sauce combined with some acid from wine or citrus helps to balance out the dish and make it easier to eat, since foie by itself would be incredibly rich, and could leave you feeling heavy after eating it if there wasn’t something with a little acid to help cut that richness.
It seems natural to me now to serve foie gras with fruit, and other liver as well, but at first I did think it a little strange. There is just something about the combination of liver and fruit though. I don’t really like other organ meats prepared that way, except maybe crispy fried sweetbreads-just think about dipping chicken nuggest in honey when you were a kid. If you have only had traditional liver and onions, I would really urge you to try cooking liver with a sauce made of sweet wine sometime as well, it’s fantastic.
I should mention that this syrup/sauce recipe is made specifically for pickled ramps. Fresh ramps would be a bit strong and garlicky, but after sitting in jars after being canned and pickled for a couple months they get pretty mellow, and really become a different ingredient altogether.
Pickled ramps are incredibly versatile. Sometimes I get weird looks from people when I say how much I like them, but I understand why they might think it strange. Taking a look at some in a jar wouldn’t make you think they are anything special, but they really, truly are. The secret is that they are not supposed to be just eaten out of the jar like other pickles These things are a very potent flavoring agent that you can use in countless ways, it does take a little bit of experimentation to unlock them though.
Seared Foie Gras with Apricot-Ramp Syrup
- 4 one ounce pieces of foie gras or larger if you can splurge
- 4 pieces of nice bread cut 1/2 inch thick, crust removed and cut into circles with a ring mold or the rim of a glass
- 3.5 ounces whole dried aprcots assume about 4-5 per person depending on size
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 tbsp ramp pickling liquid
- Kosher salt pepper
- 8 pickled ramps thinly sliced, depending on the size of your ramps this should be about 2 tbsp. Basic pickled ramp recipe here
- Tsp fresh *cilantro* cut into chiffonade
- In a 1 qt saucepan, or another pan that can fit at least a qt of liquid, heat the apricots, ramps, wine, salt, and ramp pickling liquid. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half and is syrupy enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly. Reserve the sauce and keep warm.
- Score the foie gras slices by making a cross hatch pattern with a paring knife, this will help them cook evenly.
- Toast the bread rounds, season the foie slices on both side lightly with kosher salt and pepper, then heat a 8 inch saute pan until very hot and quickly sear the foie on each side for 1 solid minute, or until golden brown and hot throughout.
- On each of four small plates, put down a toast round, then a piece of seared foie. Add the fresh cilantro to the apricot-ramp syrup, then garnish each plate with a tablespoon or two. Make sure to drizzle a little syrup directly on the foie, and save any leftover fat from searing the foie for cooking eggs in the morning for your significant other.