By Alyssa Glawe

Foie Gras, by Michelle Schwartzbauer

Michelle Schwartzbauer

After spending quite a bit of time in France, I have finally tackled many of the items on my “French Food to Try” list. As you may have read in my previous articles on escargot (snails) and les cuisses de grenouille (frog legs), these items are nothing to behold in person, but once eaten, are a rare and delightful culinary adventure. Included in my list of food to try was foie gras (fwa-grah).

Foie gras meaning “fat liver,” is the liver of a duck or goose. Now many people, especially Americans, may associate liver with the well-known “liver and onions” meal. This meal is despised by most children (and admittedly by some adults too), but the French duck liver is nothing in comparison. It is delicate and rich in flavor. It can be served like a piece of meat or like as a mousse, pâté or parfait. I have never had the opportunity to try foie gras whole; however, I have had the pleasure of indulging in foie gras pâté and mousse.

The idea of foie gras always scared me, as did escargot and frog legs, however, with much effort and a personal pep talk, I was able to muster the strength to give foie gras a go at a friend’s Christmas party. With the array of choices on the buffet table laid out before me, I chose the small, yet beautifully arranged foie gras with dried apricot on a small piece of toast. Biting into the piece, I was happily surprised at the nice contrast of smooth pâté to the crunch of toast. The foie gras itself tastes buttery and rich—too much and I probably would get a stomachache.

The second experience with foie gras was at one of the finest restaurants in Grenoble, France: restaurant Chez le Pèr’Gras. This restaurant sits at the top of the famous Bastille and offers an amazing selection of classic French dishes. Luckily, my French boyfriend wanted to spoil me before he moved to Paris for a job, so I got to admire the spectacular views of Grenoble at night from the top of a mountainside. Our hors d’oeuvre was a foie gras and mango mousse. Mango and foie gras is surprisingly an amazing combination and the mousse melted in my mouth with every bite.

If you have the courage to try cooking your own foie gras, there are many recipes online. However, my strongest suggestion, which I’ve heard from several French natives, is to first purchase foie gras pâté before diving into a foie gras recipe. The pâté is pre-made and you only have to take it out of the tin and put it on whatever you like! No matter which way you take foie gras, it is a French dish you do not want to miss.

Recipe for foie gras: Restaurant Chez le Pèr’Gras

Terrine of Foie Gras
Courtesy of Sonoma Artisan Foie Gras

1. Take the foie gras out of the refrigerator and let it sit for 1 to 3 hours (depending on room temperature) until it is soft.

2. Remove from packaging, and separate the lobes.

Remove any of the larger veins from the big lobe of foie gras, using a small pointed knife to incise about 1/4 inch deep in an “upside down Y” pattern, starting where the lobes were connected, and following the path of the veins.

Sprinkle generously with sea salt and white pepper. And add a splash of Armagnac, Cognac, Brandy or Sauternes (approx 3 tsp per lb).

Place the foie gras into a terrine, pressing it into the shape of the terrine with your fingers to make the fit as tight as possible.

Cover with plastic wrap, and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

3. The next day, take the terrine out of refrigerator for 1 hour before cooking, and preheat the oven to 200ºF.

Cook the foie gras in the oven in a bain-marie (place the terrine in a Pyrex or baking dish and fill halfway with room temperature water) for about 30 minutes per pound.

Cooking is complete when you see a thin layer of melted yellow foie gras butter on the surface.

Remove the terrine from the oven and from the bain-marie and uncover. After 30 minutes, drain off excess foie gras butter, reserving it for later use in sautéing potatoes or other vegetables.

4. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days to allow the flavors to fully develop.

Serve cold, spread over toasted bread. Freezes well up to 6 months.

Optional: Lightly press the foie gras as it cools by covering it with a piece of stiff cardboard cut slightly smaller than the terrine and wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap. On top of the cardboard, place a bottle of wine or two one-pound cans, and let the terrine cool for another 30 minutes. Then take off the cardboard and the weight, and remove the excess foie gras butter. We recommend you freeze this butter for future use.

Alyssa Glawe is a jeune fille au pair in France and has been an English assistant teacher, working for the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF). Her teaching placement was in Grenoble, France where she worked at two primary schools, teaching French children from the ages of 6 to 11. She received her B.A. in Communications/Journalism and French Language, but it was when she interned at the Alliance Française de Minneapolis/St. Paul, where she fell in love with French culture and language.

You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris® post, French Cuisine: Foie Gras, by French writer Laurence Haxaire who writes: even if foie gras is the star of holiday dinners at the end of the year, it is a traditional dish all year long. There are thousands of ways to serve foie gras: as hors d’oeuvre or entrées. Recipe included for La Terrine de Foie Gras aux Pommes d’Elké (Foie Gras with apples), Foie Gras à la Vapeur (Foie Gras marinated in salt, pepper and cognac, and steamed), and Foie Gras Poêllé (Foie Gras sautéed with a bit of sweet white wine).

Still, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Bon appétit, Julia! Bethany Olson inspires us with her review of Julie Powell’s book, Julie & Julia, and the film adaptation of the same title. Included are three simple recipes from the cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck and Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume II, by Julia Child and Simone Beck.

Boudin blanc – yes, chef! by Barbara Redmond, who shares her experience making the traditional French Christmas sausage in her home kitchen with a professional butcher.

Des Cuisses de Grenouille: Frogs’ legs, by Alyssa Glawe who brings to us another life-changing culinary experience from France. During her first extended stay in Grenoble, France, she experienced escargot (snails). This past year she mustered enough courage to try des cuisses de grenouille in Paris. Recipe included for Sautéed Frogs’ legs: Cuisses de Grenouille à la Provençale, courtesy of

Indulge at Le Meurice Hôtel, Paris, by Parisian Eva Izsak-Niimura who shares how to achieve a bit of luxury at Le Meurice Hôtel, Paris for afternoon tea or evening cocktails, when “constraint” is a word more in vogue than “indulgence.”

Pain Perdu: Childhood love of French custard and bread, by Barbara Redmond who shares her discovery of pain perdu (French toast), from the boulangerie pâtisserie Calixte in Île St. Louis, Paris. Barbara experiences French toast as a favorite treat eaten in the gardens of Notre Dame in an air of whimsy and childhood delight. Recipe included for “original French toast,” made by Christophe Raoux of L’École de Cuisine d’Alain Ducasse for Mark Schatzker, ABC News explore

Text copyright ©2012 Alyssa Glawe. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Michelle Schwartzbauer. All rights reserved.
Illustrations copyright ©Barbara Redmond. All rights reserved.