Posted by: acooksca | 05/30/2012

Liver and Let Live, tips for buying and preparing (soon to be outlawed) Foie Gras

Seared Foie Gras enjoyed by Terry and DiAnn Rooney at Apicius

Seared Foie Gras enjoyed by Terry and DiAnn Rooney at Apicius

Foie gras, the fattened liver of ducks or geese, is a spectacular product…luxuriously meaty with a velvet-smooth texture. It has been revered since Roman times. Animal rights activists, set on criminalizing eating meat of any kind, have won the first round in California by getting a bill passed marking July 1, 2012 as the date that foie gras becomes contraband. In Chicago a less restrictive law didn’t work and was rescinded after 2 years. Efforts to ban foie gras in 12 other states have been quashed. Chefs and the one producer in California have been living with vandalism to their establishments and threats against their families.

This law states that the throats of birds are damaged by force feeding and that overeating is not natural. U.C. Davis, the top agricultural institution in the state, does not agree (the physiology of ducks and geese is such that they don’t have gag reflexes or nerves in their throats which readily expand to swallow large fish. Ducks and geese naturally gorge to build substantial fat reservoirs in their livers and under their skin in preparedness for migration.) Neither does the American Veterinary Medicine Association which summarized a study in 2007 by stating that “under ideal conditions a force fed duck will not experience injury or liver necrosis”. Consumers have been lobbying in Sacramento to alter the law to regulate for ideal conditions, rather than ban foie gras from the state (see the link below to an on-line petition asking for that).

Californians still have time to legally obtain and enjoy foie gras until July 1 and because it freezes well, we can stock up. Here are some tips for buying and serving foie.

Working with a whole raw 1 ½ to 2 pound liver is daunting the first few times and expensive ($70-90 each). Fortunately, your pain is felt by D’Artagnan. The Gascony region of France has been a cradle of fine foie gras for millennia. In 1985 Ariane Dauguin, the daughter of an acclaimed Gascon chef, founded D’Artagnan in New York.  D’Artagnan is the country’s leading purveyor of foie gras and they will ship easy-to-use products to your home. Their website is packed with recipes and cooking tips to help you to look like a pro. Today I saw a 15% off foie gras offer on their website.

Medallion of Duak Foie Gras with Truffles

Medallion of Duck Foie Gras with Truffles

D’Artagnan’s pan-ready raw foie slices are pure and simple elegance (see recipe below). The creamy mousse-like medallion of duck foie gras with truffles is as impressive as it is convenient…a slab on toast accented by fig jam is a memorable appetizer. A few tablespoons of the medallion used to finish a sauce of porcini mushrooms, sherry, and a rich meat stock on penne pasta is truely addictive. The over-night shipping cost is easier to swallow when spread out over more products, so check out D’Artagnan’s smoked duck breast, duck bacon, New Zealand venison, buffalo hanger steak… all products I often order for my freezer.

When you are ready to tackle a whole liver you can obtain one from the only producer in California, Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras. The Gonzalez Family, originally from El Salvador, studied the production of foie gras in France before opening Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras in 1986. They are known to be meticulous in their methods and care of their flock. In February their office told me they were looking into a possible move out of state.

Removing the veins from a whole liver requires some practice but is necessary for cold preparations. So Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras suggests home cooks simply cut whole livers into 1-inch thick slices for use in seared preparations, thereby avoiding the deveining altogether. Unused slices freeze well for future use.

The Fatted Calf at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa and on Fell Street at Octavia in The City are good sources for raw foie gras and prepared torchon (cold medallion) sold by the ounce. They say there has been a huge upswing in demand so call and order. The meat market in the Ferry Plaza Market sells Rouge, a fine Canadian brand of foie gras. Call ahead for availability.

Wherever you obtain your foie gras, don’t hesitate…or start planning a trip to Oregon.

How to prepare pan-ready raw foie gras slices with Asian-pear and maple glaze

In a heavy fry pan over high heat cook 1/2″-thick slices of Asian pear-apple  (one per serving) until warm through, but still crunchy. Place on heated plates and keep warm. Season the foie gras slices (one per serving) with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a touch of sugar. Set the slices in the hot pan and sear for 30 seconds. Flip the slices over, remove the pan from the heat and let heat through, about 45 seconds. Top each pear-apple slice with a foie slice.  Keep 1 tablespoon of the foie fat per slice in the pan, return the pan to the heat and whisk in a few tablespoons each of apple cider and maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the foie and serve at once.

As of the posting of this article, D’Artagnan has a 15% off foie gras offer on their web site:  
Sonoma-Artisan Foie Gras:
The Fatted Calf: 

The anti-foie gras bill signed into California law in 2004 is Sections 25980-25984 of the California Health and Safety Code and will become effective July 1, 2012.



  1. “Animal rights activists, set on criminalizing eating meat of any kind…” You’re so right about that. Otherwise, they’d be focusing on the horrible treatment that big ag pigs, cows and chickens get. Great post.

    • Michelle,
      I am afraid this is just the tip of a legal iceberg. I don’t know where the PETA folks got their disturbing videos of foie gras farms…maybe they staged the shots with their own members… but the farms I have been on are very humane and the ducks and geese I have held in my arms are willing participants, even waddling up to me while I held their feed in hand. This law has no basis and legitimatized a loud and often violent splinter group that wants to control what comes to everyone’s table.

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