Few foods are as sensual and decadent as terrine de foie gras. Despite the controversy that surrounds foie gras production, this delicacy — like creamy chocolate desserts -– is often a Valentine’s Day best seller at many upscale restaurants.
In fact, at NYC’s Astor Center Restaurant for $1,295 per person you can be served an entire Valentine’s foie gras menu. Yes, that’s five duck-liver based courses. Too much for me. But, should my lover (hint, hint) want to woo me this Valentine’s Day, he could turn me into putty by offering me a sliver of Foie Gras terrine and a glass of Lanson champagne.
What makes this wonderful concoction so special? I spoke with Derek Bendig, Chef de Cuisine at Pangaea Restaurant and terrine maker extraordinaire to get the 411 on what separates this gourmet French spread from the ho-hum liverwurst sold at the grocery store.
Dana McCauley: Without giving away your signature recipe, what are the ingredients that go into a foie gras terrine?
Derek Bendig: foie gras, cognac, sweet white wine (this could be Sauternes, Ice wine, or another fine dessert wine), fine sea salt, white pepper and lots of thinly sliced Perigord black truffles.
DM: Wow! That sounds like an expensive list of ingredients!
DB: It is. To make one terrine that will produce 15 portions the ingredients cost $230. Then, of course, there’s also the time it takes to make one.
DM: What liver scented words of wisdom can you share with readers who want to tackle this delicacy in their own kitchens?
DB:• Spend some time learning how properly to prepare the liver. It needs to be deveined and properly cleaned before using. Some specialty butchers might do this for you.
• Use only the highest quality ingredients possible, from the liver itself to the alcohol the taste will be affected if everything isn’t top notch.
• Keep the ingredients cold at all times during prep to ensure a silky smooth final texture
DM: This all sounds like a lot of bother. Aren’t you just tempted to buy it ready made?
DB: Unless you buy it from a place like Pangaea, you can’t get good foie gras terrine. The canned stuff is such a pale substitute. Besides, I love to make terrines of all kinds: duck, rabbit, game, pork, and seafood as well.I enjoy the challenge and technique that goes into making terrines well. I think they’re a food that allows you to see the passion and skill of a chef in the final product. For instance, I’m making small changes in proportions, cooking method and seasonings all the time to try and make each terrine a little better than the last.