iTasting: Elevages Perigord – Duck Foie Gras

April 13, 2007 in Food Porn, ingredient, iTasting, luxury, offal, product, review

This is the first of a series of [tag]product review[/tag]s that I will call [tag]iTastings[/tag]. I had to come up with SOME sort of series name, this was as good as it got this morning. Hope you don’t find it TOO cliche.

EP logo

Today, I am going to introduce you to a company called [tag]Élevages Périgord[/tag], located in [tag]St-Louis-de-Gonzague[/tag] in [tag]Quebec[/tag], [tag]Canada[/tag], that raises their [tag]duck[/tag]s from [tag]egg[/tag]s and produces all sorts of delightful treats like [tag]foie gras[/tag] [tag]lobe[/tag]s, [tag]foie[/tag] [tag]gras[/tag] [tag]pate[/tag], foie gras [tag]mousse[/tag] with [tag]truffle[/tag]s, pate of duck ([tag]cured[/tag] [tag]rillete[/tag]s) and many other variations. I got to taste some of their product at the [tag]Dole & Bailey[/tag] [tag]Northeast Family Farms[/tag] [tag]Road Show[/tag] up in [tag]Maine[/tag] this last Monday.

If you are not a lover of [tag]offal[/tag] or foie gras, this post may not be for you. I adore all things [tag]liver[/tag], from very strong flavors of fried [tag]beef[/tag] liver to the pungency of [tag]liverwurst[/tag] to the creamy and crunchy heaven of fried [tag]chicken livers[/tag] to foie gras. During the Élevages Périgord foie gras cooking demonstration, which I will describe below, an onlooker admitted that he hated liver and that he would NOT try foie gras. I found myself teasing this poor fellow a bit, pointing out that this may be the only chance in a long time to just give it a try. He tried a piece after all and the poor thing, he turned a bit green and swore he WOULD swallow it. Now he can say with authority that he has tried it and knows its not for him. I quietly lamented the waste of good foie gras but it was good to see him at least give it a try.

The History

If you know your food, you might know that the raising of birds for the purpose of a [tag]fattened liver[/tag] has been around a while. In fact, this practice has been documented to be over 4,500 years old, with the [tag]ancient Egyptians[/tag] making foie gras as far back as 2,500 BC. This practice was documented on the walls of an ancient [tag]Egyptian[/tag] tomb:

“In the necropolis of [tag]Saqqara[/tag], the tomb of [tag]Mereruka[/tag], an important royal official, contains a bas relief of a scene in which slaves grasp geese around the necks in order to push pellets down their throats. By their sides stand tables piled with more pellets, probably made from roast grain, and a flask for moistening the feed before giving it to the geese.” SOURCE

bas relief drawing

(Public domain image sourced from Wikipedia)

You can read much more on the history of foie gras at the “foie gras” entry at The AllExperts site where you will find specifically:

“However, it was not until the [tag]Roman[/tag] period that foie gras was ever mentioned as a distinct food, to which Romans gave the name iecur ficatum. Iecur means liver and ficatum draws its root from ficus, meaning fig in Latin. [tag]Pliny the Elder[/tag] credits the Roman [tag]gastronome[/tag] [tag]Apicius[/tag], to whom the sole surviving Roman [tag]cookbook[/tag] is attributed, with feeding dried [tag]fig[/tag]s to geese to enlarge their livers. Hence the term [tag]iecur ficatum[/tag], fig-stuffed liver. [tag]Ficatum[/tag] was so closely associated with animal liver that it became the root for foie in French, hígado in Spanish, fígado in Portuguese, and fegato in Italian, all meaning liver in each respective language. The idea of feeding figs to enlarge goose liver may have been derived from Hellenistic Alexandria, since much of Roman luxury cuisine owes its inspirations to the Greeks.” SOURCE

If you read on at that link, and I recommend that you do, you will learn the fascinating tale of how foie gras is truly a profound manifestation of the complex ethnographic interplay between many different cultures over time.

In summary, the provenance seems to be, at the very least, something like this: Ancient Egyptians Mediterranean cultures, including the [tag]Jews[/tag] of Israel before the [tag]Diaspora[/tag] [tag]Greeks[/tag] Romans [tag]Diaspora Jews[/tag] who preserved this foodway during the dark ages [tag]Gauls[/tag] ([tag]French[/tag]) and other [tag]European[/tag] cultures into modern times.

I find the [tag]Jewish[/tag] [tag]foodway[/tag] particularly interesting. It is thought that it was their enduring food traditions that preserved foie gras during the [tag]Dark Ages[/tag], when any mention of foie gras disappears. What made foie gras such a tenacious practice? It was tied to [tag]kashrut[/tag] law and, I suggest, a tendency to cook with good tasting fats. In Roman-Colonized Israel, the Jews learned the art of fattening poultry (for all we really know, they taught it to the Egyptians long before, I am not a culinary historian but I have a healthy respect for the obscurity that comes from lost ages and secretive cooks). Olive oil was the preferred oil in that context but when Jews had to leave the region and found themselves in places where olive oil was not available, they turned to the oils that are made in the fattened goose. Thus, a need for [tag]kosher[/tag] non-dairy fats reinforced the foie gras practice. From there, many cultures that surrounded the Diaspora Jews (such as the Europeans) sourced their foie gras from the Jewish farmers producing this delicacy.

The Product

Élevages Périgord, as I mentioned above, raises their ducks from before hatching. They take great pride in having complete control over the entire process, from egg to meat and liver.

I find this to be extremely admirable because it demonstrates great pride in their work and great respect for the ingredient.

Some of the products they produce include:

  • Duck foie gras and truffles marble
  • Fully cooked whole duck foie gras with [tag]armagnac[/tag]
    • [tag]terrine[/tag]
    • [tag]roulade[/tag] “[tag]torchon[/tag] style” – 1 lb
    • glass jar
  • Mousse of foie gras with [tag]portwine[/tag]
  • Mousse of foie gras with truffles
  • [tag]Perigord[/tag] pate with its [tag]medallion[/tag] of whole duck foie gras
  • Block of duck foie gras [tag]prestige[/tag] 30% whole foie gras
    • terrine – 2.2 lbs
  • Block of duck foie gras
    • terrine – 2.2 lbs
    • terrine 1.3 lbs
  • Pate of duck (cured rillettes)
  • Cured dried duck breast
  • Cured dried duck breast with duck foie gras
  • Duck [tag]confit[/tag]
    • legs
    • wings
  • [tag]Cassoulet[/tag] – Toulouse recipe

I have tried to find a good source for all of this but the online pickings are sorta slim right now. I am working on some easy links. Until then, you can drop them an email at commandes@perigord.ca

The cooking demo and tasting, with photos

I had the opportunity to taste some of these products at the Dole & Bailey Northeast Family Farms Road Show this week up in Maine. Élevages Périgord set up their demo table at the back of the room so I had already worked my way through sausages, bacon, [tag]shrimp[/tag], [tag]Grade A plus 1 Tuna[/tag], endless [tag]cheese[/tag], and some chocolate; needless to say, I was sorta full when I found their table. The crowd of people was several people deep, but I snuck around back with the chef to “take pictures,” but really to get a good look and smell of the foie gras. The chef was very helpful with my many questions while he cooked foie gras and handed out samples.

There were several products on display, such as the rillettes (cooked duck and 5% foie gras), lobe foie gras, foie gras pate, and duck breast meat. I tasted each of these and loved them all. The pate was several orders of magnitude more flavorful than the lobe, which was quite delicate in it’s flavor.

The chef was also sauteing a slice of lobe in it’s own fat while he was offering the other samples. I found this preparation to be the most delicious. The exterior was carmelized and crunchy compared to the interior, which was dainty and smooth, almost fluffy (if that can be used as an imperfect description).

Luckily, I found enough space in the tummy to fit these samples in, but it was a close thing.

Foie Gras recipes on the web:

Books of Interest:

Final note (which really should NOT have to be said at all)
As a scientist, I have seen and learned of the massive impact that misguided “animal activists” have had on the field of Science. I have absolutely NO respect for those who would break into labs, burn buildings, release lab animals, or rappel from university buildings to fly protest signs. I have an active disgust for those who would threaten the lives of researchers and food industry people who are in any way involved in the handling of animals. I respect that people feel very strongly and protectively towards animals. We have 5 cats and I have always adored animals. I am also an [tag]omnivore[/tag] who is honest about the reality of being one. This post is not about any of this and I intend to maintain it that way.

Liver and Onions: You might even like it!

March 24, 2007 in beef, cooking, Food Porn, ingredient, offal, recipe

Liver and Onions

Growing up, my mom would feed us [tag]homemade[/tag] [tag]whole wheat[/tag] [tag]bread[/tag] and forbade sodas and sweets and junk foods of all types. We had our own [tag]garden[/tag] (an acre plot in Iowa, anything would grow in that dirt) and we ate out of it in the summers. My mom grew up on a farm so she loved to serve us some foods that may not be on all of America’s dinner table, things like [tag]pig brain[/tag]s, [tag]head cheese[/tag], and [tag]liver[/tag] (although, liver is much more common than the other two).

I remember fondly the pig brains dredged in crushed [tag]saltines[/tag] and sauteed in butter. It was so creamy and decadent. I ate lots of head cheese until my mom described what it was. I was off the head cheese after that. Sorry mom.

My [tag]Colombian[/tag] heritage brought [tag]deep fried[/tag] pork skin ([tag]chicharrone[/tag]s), [tag]tripe[/tag] ([tag]mondongo[/tag]), and cow’s [tag]tongue[/tag] to the table.

Of all this, my favorite has always been liver. [tag]Chicken liver[/tag]s ([tag]Church’s Fried Chicken[/tag] in [tag]San Antonio, Texas[/tag] had THE best), calf livers, beef livers, you name it. I adore [tag]liverwurst[/tag] too. I remember a place in San Antonio called Momma’s Hofbrau that served WICKED [tag]liver and onions[/tag]. Sadly, it seems, that restaurant no longer exists.

On occasion, I make liver at home because I need and want it and don’t really ever see it on restaurant menus. My poor husband, who hates liver, has to endure the smell but its just a necessity!

The dish in the photos here is very simple to make. Toast some bread, cut a circle out with a biscuit cutter, butter it, put it aside. Slice half a large Vidalia onion into rings and saute in butter and olive oil on medium low heat. DO not burn them but do get some browning on the surface. Please don’t cook them so long that they desiccate away. Remove to a plate. Add some more oil and butter to the same pan and then grab some fresh and de-membraned liver. Salt it and put that side down into the medium heat pan. Cook until you can see that it is about half done (you can see that from looking at the side of the liver). Flip and cook until the level of bloodiness that you like. Try not to dry it out! Remember, there is carry over heat so it will cook even more than what you have when you first take it out of the pan. Saute a few [tag]spinach[/tag] leaves in the same pan to pick up some of those juices.

Assemble as you like.

I put some spinach down, then the toast round, then some onions, a piece of liver cut into a circle shape, and then the sauteed spinach and more onions. Sprinkle with chunky sea salt.

Enjoy!

Liver and Onions