Foie gras is an original dish of French gastronomy, but which has now also gained fame in other countries, including Spain, where it is known as foie. It is a food product that can be consumed either alone (eg spread on bread) or used as an ingredient for other dishes, such as sushi today. Here we explain what it is and we show you everything you need to know about this typical French dish.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
What is foie gras?
The foie gras, known in Spain simply as foie, consists of liver of a duck or goose. So that it can be considered foie, the duck or goose is supercharged previously. The animal can be either primed with corn by probe or fed naturally.
French law specifies that, for the production of foie gras, the duck or goose should be primed by probe, that is, forced feeding with corn. However, other countries prefer the production of foie that takes place by feeding the animal naturally.
Foie gras literally means fatty liver in French and that is the reason why these are used acuatic birds, since they have a natural ability to accumulate fat in the liver without getting sick. This is because they are migratory birds and take advantage of these reserves to survive during the long periods of migration.
In accordance with European legislation, the following conditions must be met for this food product to be considered foie gras as such:
- Liver weight: the minimum weight in the case of ducks should be 300 g, while in the case of geese, they should be 400 g.
- They must be fed through a priming process in accordance with Commission Regulation (EC) No. 543/2008 of June 16, 2008.
It is worth noting the fact that foie gras It is not a pate, which means that it should not be confused with the pate of duck liver, goose, pig or others, since a different production process is followed for the production of the latter. In fact, in Spain it is often confused with the traditional fuagrás, which is actually a pate of pork liver or bird and has nothing to do with the French foie.
At what time did it start to be consumed?
Historically, the consumption of foie gras dates back to XXV century B.C., when the Egyptians discovered that the geese that rested on the banks of the Nile River in winter after their long migratory trips stored natural reserves of fat in the liver. They noticed that the liver of these animals had a yellow color and its taste was exquisite.
The Egyptians did not take long to realize that they could expedite the process so that the liver of these birds reached their optimal state by overfeeding them. Thus, they soon began to prime them so that their liver would hypertrophy and thus be able to obtain what we know today as Foie gras.
The consumption of foie gras by the pharaohs of Ancient Egypt was so popular that it can be represented in the tomb of the royal officer Mereruka, which is located in the necropolis of Saqqara (Memphis, Egypt). The tomb contains a bas-relief in which you can see a scene where several people grab a group of geese by the neck while trying to put food balls in their throat.
This practice became so popular in Egypt that it soon expanded into the Mediterranean, although Egypt maintained its reputation as the main producer of foie gras for a long period of time. Thus, the first references are found in the work of the Greek poet Cratino during the 5th century B.C., who repeatedly referred to the "geese primers."
From the arrival of the Romans, the foie gras began to be considered a gastronomic dish in Europe. The first name registered is that of iecur ficatumLatin term in which iecur it means liver and ficatum equals fig-fed. From this last term derives the current name of foie, not only in French, but also in Italian (liver in this language is said fegato).
With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the consumption of hypertrophied duck liver was losing fame in European cuisine in general. However, there are several historians who claim that they could be the Jews who continued with the tradition they had learned during their membership in the Roman Empire and took it to central and eastern Europe during the time of migration.
Over time, gourmets began to notice this exquisite dish that could be stocked in Jewish ghettos. Thus, Pope Pius V's cook mentioned the "liver of domestic geese raised by the Jews" in his cookbook entitled Opera. The chefs of the German noble class also noticed this dish, which began to reap a lot of fame in Alsace and that was how little by little it was making a hole in French cuisine.
Currently, 90% of the world's foie gras production belongs to European continent, with France as leader with a production of almost 20,500 tons per year. The rest of the countries with the highest foie gras production are: Hungary, Bulgaria, Spain, the United States, China, Canada and, lastly, Belgium. In 2008, the European Federation of Foie gras.
Controversial and special dish at the same time
The way in which the birds are supercharged for the preparation of foie gras has generated a wide debate throughout the world, leading even to its prohibition in some countries. This is due to the forced feeding to which the animal is subjected, called gavage in French.
The pro sector animal rights and several environmental associations have denounced the forced feeding of animals, which is already illegal not only in France, but throughout the European Union, in accordance with existing legislation. Thus, one of the 1999 European Recommendations on ducks used for foie gras production reads as follows:
"Feeding methods and food additives that generate pain, injury or illness to ducks, or those that may cause the appearance of physical and psychological conditions harmful to their health and well-being will not be authorized."
As we said, the production of foie gras by overfeeding the bird is currently prohibited in many places, although in many there is still no legislation in this regard, so the EU recommendations leave a large space for interpretation. In any case, forced feeding is prohibited in:
- Austria (with some exceptions)
- California, United States)
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic
On the other hand, there are still 5 European countries in which foie gras is produced and consumed: Spain, France, Belgium, Bulgaria and Hungary. In France, as in the vast majority of countries, foie gras is considered a fancy dish. In fact, it is usually consumed especially on special occasions, such as Christmas, New Year's Eve, wedding banquets or any other special occasion, etc.
Foie gras preparation
The foie gras preparation process consists, as explained above, in supercharge the animal so that it accumulates fat in the liver, that is, it is based on exploiting the ability of birds such as duck or goose to accumulate this fat that it actually produces naturally to take advantage of it during the time of migration.
For the preparation of the same, the animal goes through two phases: first, the pre-plucked and, secondly, the embuchado. These processes involve hypertrophy of the liver of the duck or goose to finally sacrifice them. For consumption, foie gras can be presented in several formats.
The fresh foie gras can be of extra quality, in which case it is a liver of uniform color and firm texture, with a weight of about 450-600 g. The first quality may have some spots or a less uniform color. The last group are those that have a lower quality: their size is small, they have little consistency and they may have bruises or spots.
Depending on your cooking, foie gras can be served fresh, semi-preserved or canned. It is considered fresh when the liver is raw, it is presented in a whole piece and its use is mainly intended for hospitality. Thus, for example, it can be sliced (scallops) and made in the pan, or baked to be consumed in tub mi-cuit.
The version of canned foie gras consists, first of all, of placing it in an airtight container and subjecting it to a heat treatment that can reach temperatures between 105 and 108 ° C. Canned foie gras remains in good condition for a period of 4 years and even its flavor improves over time. In fact, it is considered that the best time to consume it is shortly before it expires.
In addition, there are several products in which foie gras is the main ingredient. On the one hand, there is the foie gras parfait, which consists of a paste for which the foie gras has been previously crushed. He foie gras mousse It contains 50% foie gras and is usually taken spread on toasted bread. Finally, the foie gras galantine also contains is another star dish for the consumption of foie gras that is usually taken at Christmas.
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Finally, we have selected the previous and next article of the block "Typical dishes of the world"so you can continue reading: