How to select foie gras
Foie gras is one of the ultimate French specialities, a favourite to serve on special occasions. Often presented for New Year celebrations, foie gras also features in many recipes as a tasty ingredient to enjoy throughout the year.
Duck or goose, whole or as a block ... our experts share their top tips and pairing ideas to help you make your selection.
How to select foie gras ?
For duck and goose foie gras, the quality of the raw ingredients remains paramount when it comes to producing good foie gras. Take note of its provenance and opt for French origin where possible as this is a sure guarantee of its quality. Of course, the South West remains the iconic French region where Dubernet, Castaing and La Grande Epicerie de Paris foie gras is produced. These Maisons source their ingredients from small groups of selected breeders, whose ducks are bred outdoors and are fed on high-quality corn. For instance, Maison Dubernet ducks - certified IGP Sud-Ouest - historically come from six breeders located in and around Saint-Sever in the Landes region.
The Maison Castaing sets the bar even higher by selecting mainly "organic" ducks, “label rouge” certified and meeting very precise specifications.
And the taste?
All this savoir-faire on a plate. "Firstly, you should look for a lovely pinky- beige colour, with not much fat as this can unfortunately cause a "melted" effect", explains Maison Dubernet. “It should also have a smooth, firm and soft texture that’s not rough in any way!” the Maison adds. On the palate, you'll discover buttery notes with a hint of hazelnut and characteristic of good foie gras.
How do goose foie gras and duck foie gras differ?
On the palate, duck foie gras is reputed to be coarser and its flavour is more pronounced on first tasting.
Goose foie gras is more distinctive for its silky soft texture. It has more understated flavours which tend to develop later, as an aftertaste. Although larger, goose foie gras is naturally less fatty than that of duck. It is preferably cooked in a terrine whereas duck foie gras is best served pan-fried.
Whole foie gras, foie gras or a block of foie gras?
The difference lies not only in its provenance but also the quantity of foie gras pieces used in its preparation.
- Whole foie gras is prepared from an entire foie gras, or from one or two lobes from the same duck; it then has veins removed and is seasoned.
A block however, is produced using pieces or off-cuts of different emulsified livers. “It is therefore more affordable and can be served as an everyday ingredient. Whole foie gras remains best suited to special occasions.” Maison Dubernet confirms. - Between the two, product referred to simply as “foie gras” refers to pieces that may come from different lobes. It is, however, made up of 100% foie gras with a seasoning.
- “Médaillons” and “pâtés” appellations for their part, refer to recipes which include foie gras, containing a minimum of 50% foie gras or block of foie gras.
Some gourmet pairing ideas to serve with foie gras
“Think about fruit!” recommends Maison Dubernet. In addition to great classics such as onion confit or fig confit, mango or passion fruit compotes can bring a refreshing tropical touch to create an original dish.
“You can also experiment with fruit jelly diced into small pieces and served on toast with the foie gras”, enhancing the flavours and introducing an exciting contrast of textures.
And to decide on your foie gras food-wine pairings, Maison Castaing highlights some golden rules to bear in mind: "a truffle foie gras will be more enhanced paired with a white wine or champagne. For duck foie gras from the Landes, and especially if pan-fried, it's best to opt for a red wine instead that's not too tannic.”
The recipe: Apple compote with honey and a hint of vanilla
La Grande Épicerie de Paris recipe of the month: Apple compote with honey and a hint of vanilla, to make at home and dress your starters.
- 3 Canada variety apples
- 25 g honey
- seeds of 1 vanilla pod
1. Peel, core then dice the apples. Place them in a saucepan, adding 2 tablespoons of water along with the vanilla pod seeds and the honey.
2. Cover and bring to a simmer then cook, over a low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The apple pieces need to soften. If you prefer a smoother compote with fewer fruit pieces, you can extend the cooking time. This compote can be served hot or cold.