Indulge, Indulge! (October 17, 2001)
No matter where you live or who you are, it's been a tough couple
of months. Life really is too short, and too often precarious, so
we say, it's high time to indulge yourself and your family and friends
– and do it as often as possible. Start with this small but
glorious new book, Caviar, Truffles and Foie Gras, Recipes for
Divine Indulgence, by Katherine Alford. Nicely illustrated and
a good read as well, this cookbook contains wonderful recipes using
at least one of those three ultimate reward foods in each one.
On the menu today:
Buckwheat Popovers with a Trio of Caviars
and Crème Fraïche
Author Katherine Alford says, "For many, a stack of
yeasty buckwheat blini is the only accompaniment for caviar.
When I want the taste of buckwheat, I pull out my popover
pans and whip up this batter. Popovers are great for brunch
or impromptu entertaining, because there is no waiting for
yeast to rise or having to be anchored at the stove flipping
pancakes. You can sit down with your guests and enjoy warm
popovers smeared with caviar. Heating the milk and butter
before baking assures an impressive puff. These are also delicious
with a smear of foie gras and a bit of truffle butter."
We say, "Fabulous!"
Makes 12 mini or 6 large popovers
1¼ cups milk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup bread flour (not bread machine flour)
¼ cup buckwheat flour
¼ tsp fine sea salt
3 large eggs at room temperature
2 Tbsp shortening or lard, or 1 Tbsp each melted butter and oil
2 ounces salmon roe
2 ounces golden whitefish roe
2 ounces North American sturgeon caviar
1 cup crème fraïche
the driest white wine you can find, preferably with bubbles
– Brut champagne or Chablis Grand Cru or Muscadet sur lie.
Preheat the oven to 450°F for large popovers and 425°F
for mini popovers. Place the oven rack in the center of the oven.
Place a nonstick or well-seasoned popover pan in the oven to heat.
Put the milk and butter in a saucepan and heat over medium-low to
melt the butter. Remove from heat and set aside. Sift the flours
and salt together into a medium bowl. Whisk the milk mixture into
the flour. Beat in the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each
addition. Set aside. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and
add about ½ teaspoon shortening, lard, or melted butter and
oil to each cup. Return the pan to the oven to heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and divide the batter among the cups.
Bake for 20 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the oven
temperature to 350°F and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until
browned. Remove the popovers from the oven and poke each with a
knife to release steam. Serve immediately with the caviars and crème
Figs Stuffed with Foie Gras Mousse
||Katherine Alford's comment on this
remarkable pre-first-course: "I was once told that a successful
amuse-gueule – little treats served before a meal –
is like the opening line of a novel: It should catch your attention
and set a tone for things to come. When fresh figs are in season,
I serve them stuffed with foie gras as the 'Call me Ishmael'
of a celebratory feast." Believe us, this little dish will
really make them sit up and take notice!
1 pound fresh Black Mission or green figs
2 ounces prepared or homemade foie gras mousse *(see below)
2 tsp verjus, or 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar diluted with 1
1 tsp sliced almonds, toasted and finely chopped *(see below)
Trim the stem end of the figs. With the tip of a serrated apple
corer, a melon baller or a grapefruit knife, cut a small round out
of the bottom of each fig and reserve. Carefully scoop about one
third of the flesh form the center of each fig and reserve.
In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with
a handheld mixer, beat the foie gras mousse or prepared foie gras
until it is light, like a buttercream icing. Put the mousse or foie
gas in a pastry bag and pipe it into the figs. Plug each fig with
a reserved round piece of fig. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour,
or until the mousse or foie gras is firm. In a small pan, heat the
reserved fig flesh with the verjus or vinegar mixture until liquefied.
Press through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds.
something sweet - a Sauternes or a Late Harvest Riesling.
To serve, cut each fig in half lengthwise and brush the cut side
with the glaze. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Bake
until brown, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size.
Foie Gras Mousse
Making a mousse is a great way to use up small pieces of foie gras.
If you want to extend the yield from this recipe, add 4 Tbsp room-temperature
butter when creaming the foie gras. If making your own mousses seems
daunting, you can buy already prepared mousse.
Serves 4 to 6
6 ounces grade B or C duck foie gras, cleaned
2 tablespoons Cognac, Armagnac or Sauternes
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
2 springs thyme
2 gratings nutmeg
1 tablespoon minced summer or black winter truffle (optional)
Combine the foie gras, brandy or wine, salt and pepper in a small
bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Drain the foie gras marinating liquid
into a small saucepan. Add the stock and thyme. Bring to a boil,
reduce heat, and simmer for 1 minute to make a poaching broth.
Put the foie gras in the hot broth, cover and turn off the heat.
Poach for 5 minutes, or until the foie gras has an internal temperature
of 115°F. Remove the foie gas from the broth. Transfer the broth
to a small bowl and set over ice to cool it to room temperature.
Return the foie gras to the cool liquid and refrigerate for 1 hours.
Remove the foie gas from the liquid, pat dry and puree the foie
gras along with any rendered fat in a food processor until smooth.
If the mousse gets a broken curdy look to it, add about 1 tablespoon
of the poaching liquid to stabilize the emulsion. Taste and adjust
the seasoning. Add the nutmeg and truffle if desired. Transfer the
mousse to a ramekin. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
Sesame-crusted Foie Gras
with Pomegranate-glazed Peaches
Sesame seeds provide a crunchy contrast to the silken texture of
foie gras and add a Middle Eastern touch. Traditional flavours of
the eastern Mediterranean, such as pomegranate molasses, aromatic
spices and onions blended with sumac are all a wonderful complement
to foie gras. Sumac is a purply-red berry that is ground to a powder
and used in Lebanese cooking for its lemony taste. Although only
a small amount of the spice blend called Baharat is called for here,
make a full batch. (Like sumac, it is also available commercially.)
With a batch of Baharat, the sumac and a bottle of the pomegranate
molasses in your pantry, you'll have the beginnings of other terrific
Middle Eastern meals.
Serves 4 (only 2 in our house!)
½ onion, sliced into paper-thin rounds
½ tsp kosher salt, plus salt to taste
2 tsp ground sumac (available in specialty markets)
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint
1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 Tbsp water
4 unpeeled ripe peaches, halved and pitted
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon Baharat spice blend (recipe follows)
¼ cup raw sesame seeds
4 medallions grade A or B foie gras, 3 to 4 ounces each
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Rub the onion slices with the ½ teaspoon salt and set aside
in a small bowl for 10 minutes to soften. Rinse the salt off the
slices and pat dry with the paper towels. Mix the onion with the
sumac, parsley and mint. Set aside.
Preheat the broiler. Mix the pomegranate molasses with the water
and set aside.
Brush the peaches all over with the olive oil and place on a small
ovenproof pan, cut side up. Sprinkle the peaches with the Baharat.
Turn the peaches over again and broil them 4 to 5 inches from the
heat source until the skin blisters and blackens a bit, 3 to 4 minutes.
Turn the peaches over and broil the second side until lightly browned,
1 to 2 minutes. Brush the peaches lightly with some of the pomegranate
molasses mixture. Return to the broiler for about 1 minute, or until
browned. Remove the peaches from the broiler. Let cook and pour
the cooking juices from the fruit into the pomegranate molasses.
Put the sesame seeds in a pie tin or on a plate. Season on side
of each foie gras medallion with salt and pepper to taste. Press
the seasoned side of the foie gras into the seeds to crust one side.
a sweet white wine – Ontario Vidal Icewine or a Vendange
Tardive Gewurztraminer from Alsace.
To serve, divide the peaches and onions among 4 warmed plates.
Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place the medallions
of foie gras in the pan, crusted side down and cook until the sesame
seeds are lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Season the medallions
with salt and pepper. Turn with a flat spatula and cook for 2 to
3 minutes, or until the foie gras softens but still has some resilience.
Drain any excess fat. Transfer the medallions to a paper towel to
drain briefly. Place the medallions on the plates and drizzle with
the reserved pomegranate mixture. Serve immediately.
Baharat Spice Blend
Makes about 2 tablespoons
½ tsp while cloves
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
2-inch piece cinnamon
Seeds from 6 green cardamom pods
In a spice mill or mortar, combine the ingredients and grind to
a powder. Store in a tightly sealed jar.
We wish to thank Raincoast Books for allowing us to publish
these recipes from Caviar, Truffles and Foie Gras, Recipes for
Divine Indulgence, by Katherine Alford.
Photography by Ellen Silverman
Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.