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Foie Gras: Trickery or Russian Culinary Relativism

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Foie Gras: Trickery or Russian Culinary Relativism

JudiAU | Feb 15, 2005 01:08 PM

My husband and I recently ate a very, very expensive Franco-Russian meal that sadly did not meet our expectations. As we've gone over the experience, we are trying to decide if one element was a low grade product that was further evidence of a bad meal and value or if it is a standard preparation in another cuisine.

One of the courses was a foie gras terrine. I have consumed many fine duck or goose terrines and have personally prepared them myself. In traditional European cookery, best quality livers are handled gently and cooked lightly. The best chefs can make the terrine look seamless even though veins were removed, etc. One of the appeals of this preparation is exquisite texture.

In products prepared for sale, there are extensive regulations that show that the best quality products are whole livers, then whole parts, then parts and mousse, then mouse, etc.

The terrine was composed of thin slices of liver, perhaps the thickness of the #2 pencil, layered on top of each other. Each slice therefore exposed a regular pattern. Each serving also had a mustard based vinaigrette smeared on the terrine. Also on the plate was a small poached pear and a lightly dressed endive salad. Does anyone recognize this preparation as traditionally Russian or any other approach?

My first reaction to the terrine was that they must have used poor quality liver parts and that the artful slicing was an attempt to jazz it up. To me, texture of the liver was utterly ruined by the slicing and I also thought it was somewhat overcooked. The vinaigrette covered up the flavor of the liver.

My second reaction, as I was eating squiggles of liver with an acidic dressing, bitter salad, and sweet pear was that the flavors were quite interesting together. Perhaps the dish was trying to convey another sensation altogether. I felt the dish tasted "Russian" but my husband, who lived in Russia, said I was wrong, that I was trying to be generous to save the meal, and to him it just tasted cheap.

By the end of the dish, I was back to the poor quality liver theory.

Thoughts?

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