Duck liver, “foie gras” in French, is one of the most appreciated delicacies. Available on good restaurant’s menus all year round it is seldom made at home by the average cook. It is not thought of as an every day dish; it is more of a dish to be eaten on “Grand Occasions”, for exceptional meals.
Why are everyday cooks not preparing more duck liver, for exceptional meals? Of course, the price of raw duck liver is a little expensive, but for me the price is not the explanation, it is quite normal that for an exceptional meal one would spend more than for a regular one.
For me the answer is mainly due to the lack of know how. Terrine of duck liver when made with the regular old fashioned (but great and very workable) recipe, is complicated, at least at home. It takes a long time and the risks of having an overcooked terrine or one containing too much fat running from the duck liver is high.
There are plenty of different recipes to prepare a terrine of duck liver. I use, myself, according to different parameters five or six different recipes. Almost every professional chef I have met has different recipes. Foie gras is very versatile in the way it can be prepared. In fact when you understand what needs to be done to make a duck liver, it becomes very simple to prepare a terrine.
What needs to be done to a duck liver, to be made as a terrine?
After you have read this, you will view preparing a terrine of duck liver totally differently. Let me explain in a basic and very simple way.
First, realise that duck liver is not “cooked” as such. If you really cook duck liver, only a small part of the duck liver will remain with a large quantity of fat; the fat will have escaped from the liver because duck liver is constituted almost totally of fat.
In terms of “cooking”, duck liver needs to lose only one part of it’s fat to be ready. In order to do this we need to expose the duck liver to a high heat for a short time or to a low heat for a longer time.
This can be done in ovens, broth, stocks, water, goose fat, or in a steamer.
Among other means, the micro wave oven gives great results; preparing a terrine of duck liver with a micro wave oven works perfectly. The power does not need to be high; this method is fast, takes only a few minutes and the “cooking” process is easy to control.
Preparation of a terrine of duck liver with a micro wave oven
In this recipe the duck liver is marinated for 24 hours, this gives the best results. If you are in a hurry you can finish it the same day, without marinating. Don’t forget that the terrine needs at least 4 hours after “cooking” to be firm enough to be served.
1 raw duck liver 1lb to 1lb 5oz
10 g /1/3 oz of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
You can add according to your taste, spices, Cognac, Port wine, Armagnac. . . .
1- Separate the two parts of the duck liver and sprinkle the salt and pepper on all faces.
2- Wrap in a plastic paper and store in the fridge for 24 hours.
3- The next day un-wrap the liver. Place on a plate and cut in to thick pieces (cutting the small part in to two and the big part in to three or four pieces).
4- Set your micro wave at one third to a half of it’s power, “medium” or “medium low”; (the exact power you need to discover yourself as it depends on the oven that you have).
5- Put the plate of duck liver in the micro wave for 2 minutes, Remove and look what happened, normally a small quantity of fat has melted.
6- Turn the duck liver up side down and put it back in to the micro wave for another cycle of 2 minutes. Remove and look, a bigger quantity of fat will have melted, about 1/4 of a cup would be the maximum. The duck liver should be shiny and it should be irregularly melted. Touch the biggest parts with your finger; it should be firm but no too much. At this stage, all or only some pieces (the smallest ones) of the duck liver should be ready to be removed.
7- Remove the pieces that are ready to be removed and place them on a sheet of kitchen paper that will absorb the excess fat. (Food removed from a micro wave oven continues to cook for one or two minutes after having been removed from it. Take this in to consideration when you decide to finish the “cooking” cycle).
8- If needed, put the remaining duck liver back in to the microwave oven and continue the same process. Take care now because you may need to leave the duck liver in the microwave for only one minute or less.
(At this stage look at the very important note at the bottom of the text).
9- When ready take the duck liver out of the micro wave oven.
10- Put the duck liver on the kitchen paper. Pat the pieces of liver dry with an other piece of kitchen paper.
11- Cover the inside of the terrine, or any suitable container, with plastic paper.
12- Arrange all the pieces of duck liver inside. Fold the plastic paper over the top of the duck liver. Place in the fridge with something heavy on the terrine in order to have a compact terrine when cold.
13- Leave in the fridge for 24 hours before eating. If you are in a hurry a minimum of 4 hours is needed to have your terrine firm enough to be cut.
14- Serve with toasted bread and enjoy!
Notes: If you do not have a terrine to mould the duck liver in, simply wrap all the pieces of duck liver in plastic paper and make a roll. Store in the fridge. You can keep the terrine for four or five days before using it. If you do not eat all of the terrine the same day, make sure you wrap it in plastic paper to store it in the fridge. Do not keep the leftover for too long; about three days.
Very important note: In the explanation I have indicated two “cooking” cycles of 2 minutes. You may have to put the duck liver in the microwave for more than that. Here you need to use your common sense because at this point, the set up, the power of your micro wave, the size of the pieces you cut, and the quality of the duck liver, all have a big part to play in the result. (Of course, the first time you prepare this recipe you may be a little bit uneasy but after 2 or 3 times you will find the right way).
(For information about how to choose a duck liver, refer to a different article)
(For different recipes or what to serve with duck liver, refer to a different chapter)
Jean-Louis Vosgien is a culinary consulting chef. He was the first chef in France to introduce in the 1980's fusion food, that at this time was unknown, and he was considered an expert in that field by press people and his peers.
Jean-Louis Vosgien travelled in many countries, mainly in Asia to teach French cuisine. He created two cookery schools, one in Saint-Tropez and the second in Lorgues, near Saint-Tropez. He created a cake, famous in France, “Le Canelou de Provence”, sold today in the three major supermarket chains in France. He was involved in the creation of the French cookery book “La Cuisine de Mistral", with Alain Gerard and Robert Callier. Several of his recipes also appeared in “The World Class Cuisine of Italy and France" book. He is about to publish a new book on the US market.
Quote: “I am strongly involved in everything related with food. I like to write. I have just finished the writing of a diet cookery book. I like painting, drawing and I sometime practice calligraphy but I am more involved today in food photography. "