Along with truffles and black caviar, foie gras (“fatty liver” — French) is one of the cult delicacies of all times and peoples. If someone set out to create the coat of arms of gourmets around the world, no doubt, foie gras would take the first place in it. Truffles, jamon, parmesan and, of course, foie gras are the most famous elite products that have become the same symbol of luxury life as expensive champagne and black caviar.
Is foie gras a goose or duck? The name foie gras, according to French traditions, can only relate to the liver of an ordinary goose and two types of ducks: Musky and Moulard duck, and only males. Today 90% of foie gras is made from duck liver and only 10% from a goose. So, foie gras can be made either from geese or ducks.
If 90% of foie gras is made from duck, does it mean that it is better? Not necessarily. Let’s dive into the characteristics of both duck and goose foie gras and see which is better.
Duck Foie Gras vs. Goose Foie Gras
Which is better — duck or goose foie gras? Duck foie gras has a stronger, more aromatic flavor. Goose foie gras is more bitter, than duck, however, it has a softer, smoother structure. Duck foie gras is considered better because of widespread distribution and large scale marketing. Both duck and goose foie gras have a good, unique taste and delicate aroma.
The debate about which is better — duck or goose foie gras has been going on since time immemorial. Initially, only geese were used to produce foie gras; today, economic reasons persuade producers to choose ducks. During its life, a duck eats on average 20% less feed (ground corn), which means that its production is economically profitable. Goose liver is preferred only in Hungary, in all other producing countries (France, Spain, Israel, Poland, USA) more than 90% of foie gras is made from duck liver. Goose liver is a rare product and therefore becomes even more expensive.
Due to widespread distribution and large-scale marketing, the duck is currently outselling goose and therefore cheaper. Goose is not an industrial product. Its price is much higher since more labor is needed to make it. To begin with, a duck has a stronger flavor. It is more aromatic. The goose, in turn, leaves a little bitterness in the mouth but has a much finer texture. In terms of preference, the manufacturer agrees that this is true. Some prefer the richness of the duck flavor, while others appreciate the finesse of the goose.
The newest history of foie gras dates back to 1778, when the Marquis de Conrad, Marshal of France and ruler of Strasbourg, told his young chef Jean-Pierre Close the legendary phrase: “Today I want to treat guests to real French cuisine”. And the young man came up with his own recipe: he cooked the liver in lard and stuffed the dough with it. The dish was an overwhelming success and soon got on the table to Louis XVI, who, as a token of gratitude, presented the chef with 20 pistols. Jean-Pierre Close himself began to actively popularize his invention, so the fame of foie gras gradually spread throughout the world.
With the invention of canning, the production of foie gras has reached a wide scale, and today you can taste the great delicacy not only in the homeland of haute cuisine.
Where does the best foie gras come from? France remains the leader in the production of foie gras, which recently ranked this product as one of the country’s cultural heritage. So, the best foie gras comes from France. The second place in the list of manufacturers is taken by Hungary, the third — by Belgium.
Foie gras production in France is regulated by law. The best foie gras comes from a whole goose or duck liver without additives (foie gras entier). Foie gras with pieces consists of the ground liver and whole pieces of liver, the content of which must be at least 30%. A foie gras block (bloc de foie gras) consists of ground liver, and the content of goose liver must be at least 50%. Foie gras is used to make mousse, pate, parfait, galantine, terrine, or medallion – each of these products has its own method of preparation and different liver contents.
But which foie gras is better, duck or goose? Each foie gras fan has his own preferences in this regard. Goose liver is larger and has a delicate and refined taste, while the duck liver is more aromatic. In France, especially in Alsace, they eat more goose liver, while duck foie gras is more common in American restaurants.
Grocery stores offer different types of duck and foie gras, ranging from handcrafted in Strasbourg to foie gras with truffles. For example, foie gras with 3% black truffle, also known as Perigord truffle. Truffles are bought fresh, whole, and peeled, with a quality guarantee. They are cut into strips by hand to maintain a rich and delicate flavor. The result can be felt in your mouth, feeling the firm and, at the same time, creamy texture of the product. Spread it on toast and enjoy.
Pairing Foie Gras with Food and Drinks
Duck and goose liver dishes, which traditionally should be slightly sour, are served with sweet and sour wines. The most traditional gastronomic union is foie gras and sauternes white wine. The wines of the French region of Sauternes have a sweet taste with a pleasant sourness, this flavoring shade of grapes gets under the influence of a special noble mold that appears on berries on cold foggy mornings. Only one glass of this noble drink is obtained from a whole vine, so Sauternes wines are usually not cheap. Alsatian wines also go well with duck or goose foie gras because they have a sweetish, fruity aroma.
The combination of foie gras with white wines is a classic. If foie gras is served on the beef fillet, burgundy red wine goes well with it. There are other options as well. For example, in the south-west of France Armagnacs are drunk with foie gras. Strong alcohol softens the fat content of foie gras, and foie gras softens the aggressiveness of alcohol. Sometimes the port is good too.
You can almost endlessly enjoy the delicate flavor combinations of foie gras and wines. And, even though foie gras is a fatty and high-calorie product, this does not mean that it is unhealthy. French researchers have found that foie gras contains a large amount of non-fatty acids that help lower blood cholesterol levels.