Foie Gras. Surely one of the most controversial delicacies in the world.
I must admit that I don’t like to think much about how it is made, but being French I grew up with the stuff. Contrary to popular belief however, even in my home country, this is not something that people eat often at all. In fact, in my family, we only eat foie gras over the Christmas holidays – it is very much a celebratory and rare treat, much like oysters in fact (I remember being so surprised when I moved to NYC that oysters is something that people savor at happy hour here through the summer!).
Even though I have lived away from France for the past twenty years, I have never spent a single Christmas without my family and cannot imagine that I ever will. It is a very special time for us and an opportunity to bring our family unit back together just like it was when me, my younger sister and brother were growing up and living at home. My brother, his wife and their two lovely daughters move into my parents’ place while I am there so that we can all hunker down together for a solid week. My sister tragically passed away almost two years ago now and we are still figuring out how to deal with such a huge loss as a family but we have largely continued with our old traditions.
Before I left France last Christmas, my dad slipped a jar of foie gras in my luggage. And I knew precisely who in my group of friends would appreciate it as much as I do: Ben and Ligia first and foremost (who both really love the stuff), but also Caroline and Fionuala (both foodies who wouldn’t flinch at idea of it).
The traditional way to serve foie gras is with a sweet and sour flavor note to cut through the fatty richness of the foie – so perhaps either a red onion or a fig chutney. It is usually also paired with a Sauternes wine which is a deeply golden, sirupy and sweet yet complex wine. I knew I wanted to riff off this tradition and happened upon a recipe that involved making a gelée of Sauternes with Saffron (a pairing made in heaven!) that I could put on top of the foie which I decided to serve on crostini.
Making gelée, while it might seem impressive, is in fact very easy although if I attempt it again, I will put more thoughts into how to cut it so that it is in prettier shape when serving.
The lamb and risotto recipe was adapted from Great British Chefs, a recent website discovery of mine. It called for lamb loin which I could not find (it’s not a common cut so needs to be ordered in advance at the butcher) so I used chops instead that I quickly pan-seared to a medium-rate temperature. Risotto, while a little tricky, is one of my favorite things to make for groups – I actually enjoy slowly stirring in the stock and it is mindless enough of a task to be able to still hold a conversation with my guests while doing it. It must however be served the minute it is done!