One of the world's great luxury foods, foie gras (literally, 'fattened liver') is the liver of either duck or goose. Goose, which is considered to be more flavourful and to have the finer texture, is the more expensive. The method used in the production for foie gras from either bird is highly controversial, and involves force feeding them in order that their livers fatten up to the required weight (in the EU, this is 300g - a normal, unfattened liver weighs around 50g).
Banned in the UK, foie gras production is most associated with Gascony, in south west France, but Hungary is also a big producer. Despite the controversy surrounding foie gras, its creamy, silky texture and unique flavour, quite unlike any other liver, means that it remains a sought-after ingredient. It can be bought whole and raw (known as lobes), semi-cooked (micuit) or cooked in paté, block or mousse.
For more information about foie gras regulations see Food Standards Agency.
Choose the best
Look for a delicate rosy colour, with slight touches of beige. Connoisseurs reckon that foie gras from Gascony is the best. Whole (entier) foie gras is the most expensive of all the preparations.
Before you do anything with a whole, raw foie gras, you'll need to remove the nerves and veins. First, chill the foie gras well, as this will firm it up, making it easier to handle. Then pick off the outer membrane before slicing horizontally into three - it may help to run your knife under warm water first, wiping it dry before cutting. Allow the liver to return to room temperature then, using your fingertips or a cocktail stick, pick out the nerves and veins, and discard.
Fresh foie gras should be stored in the fridge in its original vacuum-sealed packaging, until use. Unopened, it will last for up to 3 weeks. Once opened, it should be used in 2 days. Foie gras paté, and other fully cooked products, can last for a couple of years unopened - check the label for instructions. Micuit foie gras should be refrigerated until used.
Add chopped raw foie gras to minced beef for a deluxe, very juicy burger. Cut into thin medallions and pan fry (1 minute each side). Bake in a terrine (20 minutes).