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Ménage à Foie Gras

A rarity happened in my kitchen last week: I dared to prepare a few slices of foie gras. The pale brown duck liver is a delicacy I usually order only in the restaurants of expert chefs, because everything I’ve read cautions the home cook to be careful. If you overcook it, a fatty lobe of foie gras simply melts away. But that was not my experience with this luscious liver.

It’s this desirable fat that is foie gras’ blessing – and its curse. Foie gras, French for “fat liver,” comes from a duck or goose that has been fed a daily regimen of corn during a fattening period. Most foie gras in North America comes from ducks, as they’re easier to raise than geese and less prone to disease.

Open a newspaper and you’ll see that the forced-feeding process drives debate all over the world, but a few facts are often overlooked. Migrating waterfowl naturally store fat for their annual journey, much of it in their livers. It’s this natural enlargement that farmers mimic with care; after all, there is a difference between a fatty liver and an unhealthy liver. Ultimately, the former is delicious and the latter is not. Farmers need to treat the birds well to ensure top-quality foie gras.

Still, the organ raises controversy. California, in fact, will enforce a ban on the sale of all foie gras in the coming months, fining violators up to $1,000 a day.

Ban or not, foie gras is highly sought-after for the luxurious flavor it imparts to many foods. And what I discovered in the kitchen last week was equally revelatory: It’s quite easy to prepare.

While many preparations (mi-cuit, en torchon, even mousse or foam) exist, I took the simple route: seared. I left the slices in the refrigerator until just before preparing, so that the fatty pieces would be easier to work with – it’s like chilling pie dough before rolling it out. After dusting each piece with flour, I seared each side for 60 seconds on a medium-hot pan. Voilà! Seared foie gras slices were ready for a thick slice of crusty bread and a pinch of flaky sea salt. I even poured the liquefied fat over it – indulgent, for sure, but that’s what foie gras is all about.

So why would you risk botching the preparation of this expensive ingredient when it’s so easy to order at a restaurant? Because, as you’ll realize, it’s not that hard to prepare at all.

Follow my epicurean adventures on Twitter @KathrynAndersen