Thursday was our second annual foie gras workshop, held at Rosemary and Jean-Michel's place in Blois. I picked up the fresh duck livers from Maison Perrin on Monday and kept them in our 2ºC fridge. They were wrapped in cling film and I put them all together in a big plastic box. To transport them up to Blois they went in the eskie on a couple of freezer blocks.
Preparing foie gras involves quite a lot of peering and poking...
Mme Charcellay at the foie gras farm had told me to make sure the livers had been out of the fridge for at least four hours before we worked with them, so they weren't too hard. We also talked about the outbreak of bird flu to the south of us and she said she wasn't expecting it to arrive in our area. She had taken the opportunity to speak to the Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, who was in Preuilly last weekend for the Christmas market, and there is no indication that anything other than vigilance is required at the moment. Last time there was an outbreak all the birds had to be kept inside, to make sure they didn't have contact with the wild population which is responsible for spreading the disease.
...prodding and pressing...
We also discussed the new animal welfare laws that will be coming in by 2017 and how they will affect her work. She has already purchased and is using gavage cages that comply with the coming legislation but she is not convinced they add to the birds' welfare. She is at least the third generation of her family producing foie gras and she says the new legislation will make the salle de gavage look better to the uninformed visitor, but from a practical point of view may actually reduce the welfare of the ducks. The problem is that the cages are larger, which means the ducks have more wriggle room when they are being fed. With the new cages the handler has to hold the duck much more firmly and there is a risk they can be injured if they move.
The day of the workshop dawned with thick fog blanketing the Claise and Indre valleys. Fortunately as we travelled north the fog got thinner, but driving through the forest of Loches, with deer crossing in front of us twice, was not without stress.
We made a quick stop en route at Jean-Luc Bilien's goats cheese dairy, Fromagerie Moreau in Pontlevoy, and purchased a 60 day old Selle sur Cher for lunch (and one for us to take home). Jean-Luc was in good form and we wished each other seasons greetings before moving on.
At Rosemary and Jean-Michel's everything was prepared for the workshop and we went around the back of the house to admire JM's handiwork. He's recently installed a large new window over the sink, which makes an enormous difference to their kitchen. As usual he's done a terrific job. They bought the stone second hand, through the French equivalent of Ebay, leboncoin. We had quite a discussion about the stone as it is pierre de Beauce, a limestone that is harder than tuffeau but softer than marble. It looks great.
Françoise and Paul arrived for lunch, which began with an apéritif of sparkling Vouvray, some crudités and French onion dip (which of course as the name will tell you is a dish unknown to French people). Paul had made a delicious salmon quiche for entrée, followed by Jean-Michel's duck à l'orange, served with quinoa. I made apple snow and sablés (shortbread biscuits) for dessert, which turned out to be quite a hit.
Deveined foie gras.
Janet arrived just in time for dessert and coffee, then we all got to work with the foies. This went very easily as everyone except Janet had done it before. The next day I pressed the cured liver into two terrines and they are now developing flavour in the fridge.
For my previous post on making foie gras see here, and for Rosemary's post on this year's workshop, see here.