Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Fat of the Matter

Before I left for Tokyo, my friend G’s very kind mother-in-law invited me to their home for a lesson in de-veining foie gras and foie gras terrine. I adore foie gras. I had my first taste of it back in the day, at the tender age of 18, in a mock aircraft while undergoing training to be an air stewardess. It was a lesson in in-flight meal service; the most fun part of the class was devouring the food we were pretending to serve.

It probably wasn’t even real foie gras, come to think of it. More like duck liver as opposed to goose, but at that age, how was I to know? All I knew was that it was delicious. The most delicious, unctuous, deep-tasting moussy thing my palate had ever known. I was hooked—even if for years I had made it very clear to my mother that I did not like and would never eat any kind of liver.

Over the months that followed, I stole pieces of foie gras from my colleagues’ meal trays the moment any of them so much as hinted that they didn’t care for foie gras. Over the years, I indulged like a true freeloader at media events—the most memorable being under a huge white tent lining up more than a few times with a colleague for nuggets of pan-fried foie gras just before the Chanel show. If the models weren’t eating, I certainly was.

One of my family’s favourite Sunday brunches is at Raffles Hotel’s Bar and Billiard Room, where they serve all the foie gras you can eat—pan-fried or terrine. So far the record stands at 15 servings of pan-fried foie gras, set by my cousin G. Granted he arrived at brunch fresh from completing a full marathon, but he also devoured four lobsters, three servings of terrine, countless oysters, lots of grilled meats, cheese, some salad and dessert. Good thing both he and his father are doctors—he’ll need all the cholesterol meds he can get.

The little hole in the terrine you see here comes from not packing the foie gras in the dish tightly enough.

Back in my friend’s kitchen, her mother-in-law M, who was visiting from Lyon, showed me the intricacies of de-veining the goose liver. Her version of foie gras terrine is extremely simple—“home-style” as she likes to call it. Seasoned with herb salt, pepper and a sprinkling of nutmeg, the foie gras is tucked neatly into a terrine dish which was sealed with paste of flour and water and carefully cooked in a bain-marie. M even thoughtfully brought me a terrine dish from Lyon since they seem to cost a fortune here in Singapore.

With strict instructions to let the dish rest in the fridge for five days, she sent me along. It was a good thing then that I was off to Tokyo for exactly that duration, and when I came home, it was foie gras all week. Even then, at the end of week, I had to call in The Cleaners, otherwise known as my cousins, who lived up to their moniker impeccably.