Seared Foie Gras With Caramelized Figs
Perfectly seared foie gras and caramelized figs come together to create a sublime dish
A perfectly seared slice of foie gras, slightly crisped on the outside with a warm buttery center that melts in your mouth is the culinary equivalent of having Barry White sweet-talk your pallet into a new plane of existence.
This seared foie gras recipe highlights the rich flavors and sublime texture that show why this is one of the most sought after ingredients in the culinary world. Since foie gras can be an ingredient that intimidates lots of cooks and is something that very few people work with often, we have lots of tips for how to prepare and sear it and have created a dish that shows off its best qualities.
The perfect bite in this dish is a slice of the caramelized fig sitting in between a piece of warm foie gras and a small bit of lightly toasted bread.
In this Piece
What is Foie Gras
Foie gras comes from the fattened liver of a duck or goose and is widely considered to be one of the world’s great culinary delicacies. It has a long history dating back to the ancient Egyptians and was popular during Roman times.
Over time it became an important part of French cuisine, with small farmers taking advantage of ducks and geese’ natural inclination to gorge themselves in the fall, storing the calories in their livers before migrating to warmer climates.
Foie gras can be somewhat controversial, which is why we recommend buying it from a producer that respects tradition and focuses on raising their ducks humanely.
Our preferred provider is Au Bon Canard, which pasture raises their ducks in Southern Minnesota. A part of what we like about using Au Bon Canard foie gras is how little fat it gives off in the pan reducing loss, leaving more for us.
There are lots of ways to prepare foie gras, some of the more popular are in terrines, pates, mousses, and foams. It also played a major role in the development of sous vide as a cooking technique.
A common question is what foie gras tastes like; the best foie gras has a warm, rich, nutty flavor that lingers on your palette. A part of what makes it special is the sublime texture that comes from it literally melting in your mouth, coating your tongue with flavor.
As with most high-end ingredients, foie gras can be found fresh or frozen online, at high-end butcher shops, grocery stores, and co-ops. As long as it has been handled and frozen in the right way, frozen can be just as good as fresh and is much easier to find.
An option when buying a whole liver is to use what you need for a particular dish and then use a vacuum sealer to seal up the rest before freezing it. Properly frozen foie gras can be stored for a year.
Searing Foie Gras
What makes this technique so popular, especially with home cooks, is how simple the process is and how it makes the foie the star of the dish, something important with this expensive of an ingredient.
When pan searing, take the time to have everything ready before starting the cooking process. The reason prep matters is that the slices of duck liver will only be in the pan for a minute or two at the most and should be served before they’ve had a chance to cool.
If you’re working with a whole liver, the first step is to separate the two lobes, removing any extra veins, and slicing the liver into 3/4 to 1 inch thick slices.
Whenever your slicing foie gras, make sure to run the knife under scalding hot water. Heating the knife allows it to slice through the foie like a hot knife through cold butter, creating nice even edges and reducing waste.
We recommend using a heavy cast iron pan for searing and having a spatula that lets you easily get under soft ingredients. A spatula that works well for fish or eggs should work well here.
The key to getting a good sear is to have a heavy enough pan that it can be heated over high heat and hold its heat when the slices hit the pan. The hotter the pan, the less fat will render out as it cooks.
The challenge is to get the slices to warm through and brown before they render out. When it’s cooked too long foie will essentially melt in the pan.
As long as your ready and the pan is hot foie gras is relatively easy to cook and there is something deeply satisfying in putting out a beautifully composed dish that would be at home in a five-star restaurant.
Although it’s just for show, we do like to cut a criss-cross pattern into each slice before it goes into the pan. With duck breasts, this is done to prevent them from shrinking up under the heat, with the foie gras, it’s just to create an interesting textural element that improves the presentation; essentially, it makes the slices look pretty on the plate.
Foie Gras Recipe Tips
- Prep everything before starting the cooking process.
- Combining the salt and pepper in a small bowl, so you can use your fingers to season everything as it’s cooking.
- Run the knife under hot water before cutting each slice.
- Use a cast iron or heavy-bottomed saute pan – The pan should be dry before adding the foie gras.
- Have a plate with a paper towel ready for the slices when they come out of the pan.
Seasoning the Foie Gras
The seasoning and other ingredients in this dish are built around showing off the foie gras’s range, giving it a supporting cast that creates a dish that can be savored.
The honey and cognac highlight the warm, almost caramel-like interior, while the carmelized figs provide a textural contrast and a burst of citrus that elevate the rest of the dish’s flavors. Adding the chives gives it a little pop of color and flavor.
Serving everything on top of a slice of toasted country bread brings everything together, balancing each bite. The plating for this dish is designed so it can be served as a whole portion to one person you really like or as a shared plate to two people you mostly like.
A tip when it comes to seasoning foie gras or anything that needs to be seasoned quickly while it cooks is to mix the salt and pepper in a small bowl while the dish is being prepped. This will let you season the slices quickly and not worry about getting anything messy.
The slices should be seasoned before they go into the pan and again when they come out. The reason for seasoning them twice is most of the salt and pepper from the first round will come off in the pan while the slices are cooking.
What to Serve With Foie Gras
This is the type of dish that deserves to be the star of a sublime dinner party with good friends and loads of great wine. It’s a special enough dish that it should be served by itself as a first course, possibly alongside a round of Bees Knees or Perfect Manhattans.
For the main course, it could be followed up with some Smoked Duck Breasts and Black Garlic Risotto along with a slice of Better than Sex Cake for dessert. It’s the kind of decadent dinner that your friends will be talking about for years to come.
- 2 slices grade A foie gras – approximately 3 ounces each
- 2 slices good country bread, French or Italian, cut into circles using a large biscuit cutter
- 3 figs, cut in half
- ⅓ cup cognac
- 1/2 tbsp honey
- ½ tbsp chives, minced
- ½ tsp thyme, minced
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- Use a large biscuit cutter to cut two circles from ½ inch thick slices of good country bread.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt and pepper.
- Cut the figs in half and lightly salt and pepper them.
- In a small bowl mix the figs, honey, thyme, and cognac together. Let the figs marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Use a hot knife to slice the foie gras into 3/4 to 1 inch thick slices
- Make small criss-cross cuts in each slice before seasoning them with salt and pepper.
- Sear the foie gras in a large cast-iron pan that has been preheated over high heat. The pan should be dry and extremely hot. The slices should be seared until they are golden brown, this usually takes 30 to 60 seconds per side.
- Once the slices have finished searing, set them on a paper towel, and lightly season them with salt and pepper.
- Quickly toast the bread in the pan, it only needs to be toasted for 30 to 45 seconds per side.
- Place the figs cut side down to carmelize in the pan. After a minute or two, add in the marinade for the figs and any fat that has rendered out and been removed. Cook until the figs have caramelized and the sauce starts to thicken.
- To plate the dish set the toasted bread in the middle of the plate, laying the slices of foie on top. Place the figs around the outside, drizzling the sauce from the pan over the figs.
- Top with a sprinkling of chives.