Foie Gras is a world famous pâté made from specially fattened duck or goose livers. It comes in two distinct forms, Entier and Bloc.

Bloc is akin to more traditional pate, whereas Entier, the more expensive of the two, consists of whole liver lobes pressed together. The variety of foie gras made from duck liver (Foie Gras du Canard) is supposedly fuller and stronger tasting than the variety made from goose liver (Foie Gras d'Oie) which is meant to be richer and smoother.

The best foie gras in the world comes from the Dordogne region in midwestern France (also famous for its walnuts). The animals are fattened by force feeding them corn 2-3 times a day for several weeks, which leads to a distended/fatty liver, and damages the birds' health. Many people have an ethical problem with the way that the ducks are treated. Just to say I wouldn't want to have a tube shoved down my throat, and food pumped into me until I exploded.

How to get your goose's liver perfect for making Foie Gras

I am assuming the following:

How to force-feed your goose for 23 days

You have to force-feed your goose for 23 days. The mixture with which the goose will be fed is made by mixing corn and water, half and half. Simply grind the corn and mix it with an equal amount of water.

The geese are fed 3 times a day. On the first day, feed it 200 grams of the mixture in each feeding. Gradually build it up, so that on the 23rd day, the goose receives 1000 grams in each meal. Feeding is done thus: insert the pipe all the way down the goose's throat, and pump the mixture into the stomach. During this time, you must also keep it in closed quarters so that it cannot move too much and waste energy.

On the 24th day, if it's still alive, you can mercifully kill it and take out it's liver.

Why does the liver become so big?

Foie Gras literally means fatty liver in French. Because of the incredible amounts the geese are fed, the liver becomes diseased. The disease is called Hepatic Lipidosis. A normal goose liver weighs about 100 grams. A 'good quality' liver for foie gras weighs about 750-800 grams. That's 8 times the natural size!

Does the goose suffer?

Beside the diseased liver, the constant insertion of the metal or plastic pipe down the esophagus causes internal wounds. In addition the goose can hardly move and can hardly breathe, for many reasons, including the wounds in the neck which press on the windpipe and pressure on the lungs from the inside, due to the geese's obesity.

Don't be surprised if the goose dies prematurely from suffocation or from a burst stomach.

And let me just quote from some veterinarians:

I just hope you think about this next time you order foie gras.

I got most of my information from an article that was broadcast yesterday on Israeli Television. This is how it is done in Israel. I know for a fact that the method is very similar in other countries. Also, the method of force-feeding ducks is very similar.

Quotes are from

One attempt to circumvent the animal abuse issues surrounding the force feeding of the geese involves one of the most ingenious (if ethically dubious) examples of applied neuroscience.

The brain controls many aspects of behavior, including eating and drinking behavior. In 1951 an experiment in rats discovered that by selectively destroying a very specific part of the hypothalamus, (the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) if you must know,) you could get an animal to EAT ALL THE TIME. The neuroscientists who discovered this dubbed the VMH the "satiety center" for the brain and gave themselves a hearty pat on the back.

French scientists in the sixties decided that this bit of info could be used to give the foie gras industry what it has been really needing all along: A goose that WANTS to eat all the time. So, they painstakingly developed a highly accurate stereotactic atlas of the goose brain** and developed an amazingly efficient technique to lesion the VMH in butcher-stock geese. The result? Big fat happy geese.

In the end, it was decided that assembly line neurosurgery might also be unethical, and so the method was never put into common use. And it seemed that even when they ate all the time, the geese still didn't get fat enough to produce the best foie gras. (Even the old neuroscientists lose out here too, since it was later discovered that the VMH is not the satiety center after all, but a regulatory center for the autonomic nervous system that messes with sugar and fat metabolism and induces overeating.)

** Lets take a moment to appreciate this: A stereotactic atlas of an animal brain is immensely difficult and time consuming to acquire. It requires many long months or years spent slicing up hundreds of animal brains - in the case of the goose, brains about the size of a garbanzo bean - in an attempt to register, down to the 1/10th of a millimeter, the typical location of brain structures. There are accurate atlases for mice and rats, as they are the most used research animals in neuroscience, and there is a a human stereotactic atlas that isn't that great - but creating an atlas solely for the purpose of a tasty liver pâté is nothing short of fanaticism. The point being: when it comes to food, don't fuck with the french.

This French word translates literally as fat liver. Foie gras (fwah grah) is the fattened and enlarged liver of goose or duck. It's very rich and delicious with a smooth silky texture: a real gastronomic treat. Raw foie gras can be seared, or made into a terrine, pâté (containing at least 80% pureed goose liver) or mousse (containing at least 55% goose liver).

The process of getting foie gras is only slightly more horrifying than any other method of commercially raising and slaughtering animals for food. The fowl are force-fed and fattened for some months, without being allowed to exercise, resulting in a huge fatty liver. Once the bird is killed, the liver is removed and soaked overnight in milk, water or port, after which it's ready for the cook to work their magic.

Raw foie gras is a specialty of Alsace and Perigord in France, but is not always easy to come by elsewhere. It's only recently become available to me here in Ontario because a Quebec farm has started to produce it, and sneff tells me he can only get it pasteurized in Australia. Which is too bad, for he's never had this unctuous delicacy at its most delicious.

I remember the first time I ever had seared foie gras. I, like many, associated foie gras with pâté, and I wasn't sure what I would get when I ordered seared foie gras. What arrived was a disc of meltingly silky deliciousness with an crispy browned crust. I swooned at the taste, texture, and luxuriousness of this dish. Since then, if there's foie gras on the menu, I have to try it. It's usually served as an appetizer, because it's so rich, but sometimes a slice of foie gras lies temptingly on top of a steak, slowly melting and mingling with the meat juices. Yum.

Seared Foie Gras with Port-Poached Pear

This is a surprisingly easy but very luxurious appetizer.

First, make the poached pears. I use half a pear per person, generally a bartlett. Peel the pear, cut it in half, remove the core and stem with the point of a small sharp knife, place in a small pot, and cover with port - late bottled vintage is very nice. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about half an hour, turning the pear after 15 minutes, until the pear is soft and the port is reduced to a thick syrup. Cool and refrigerate. (You can prepare this up to 2 days in advance.)

If you're lucky, like me, you have a good butcher who will take a huge lobe of foie gras and cut you off slices about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick, so you don't have to break the bank and buy the whole thing. (Foie gras is expensive.) Otherwise, you're going to have huge lump - possibly even two lobes - of foie gras to deal with. Should that be the case, use the point of a sharp knife to remove any visible veins and cut out any bitter green parts you can see. Slice as many pieces as you need, and if you have extra, make a terrine, recipe below.

When you're ready to make your appetizer, remove the pears from the syrup and slice thinly; fan out on a small plate. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat till very hot but not smoking, then add the foie gras slices. Season with salt and pepper and sear for 30-60 seconds, turning once. Don't leave them in the pan too long or you'll end up with a pool of very expensive fat.

Arrange the seared foie gras on the plates atop the pear. Add the port syrup to the frying pan and cook, stirring, for about a minute to reduce and warm. Pour the syrup over the foie gras and pear and serve.

A traditional accompaniment to foie gras is a sweet wine such as Sauternes; an ice wine is a good alternative.

Terrine of Foie Gras with Ice Wine Gelée

Best to make this with a whole lobe of foie gras, if you can; this recipe is for 2 lbs (1 kg) of foie gras.

Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).

To prepare the foie gras, use the point of a sharp knife to remove any visible veins and cut out any bitter green parts you can see. Try to keep the lobe whole as much as possible, but don't worry if bits fall off; you can pack them into the terrine as well. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Armagnac and pack into a loaf pan, pressing lightly into the corners and to remove any air pockets. Cover completely with tin foil and place in a roasting pan; pour in boiling water till it reaches halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the gelée. Pour 1-1/2 cups (175 ml) ice wine (or any sweet wine) into a small pot and sprinkle with 1 tsp (5 ml) gelatine. Heat gently till gelatine is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour into a plastic-wrap lined square pan and refrigerate at least 4 hours, till hardened. Cut into squares to serve.

Remove the loaf pan from the bain-marie and let cool to room temperature, then unwrap and pour any fat into a container; let settle so the fat will rise to the top. Gently pour the fat back into the terrine to cover the foie gras.

Cut a piece of cardboard to fit onto the top of the foie gras in the loaf pan. Cover the cardboard with plastic wrap, put it on top of the foie gras, weigh it down with cans, and refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, turn the terrine out onto a plate. Scrape off any fat, cut into slices with a warm knife, garnish with ice wine gelee cubes, and serve with crispy toasts. Eat, and swoon.

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