I had leftover duck foie gras. Now I know that is one problem you don’t encounter everyday. T wouldn’t eat it “as is” because he found it too strong. He wasn’t alone in it either; the guests, for whom I had composed the duet of foie gras consisting of a mousse of goose foie gras and said fresh grade A duck foie gras, licked up every last morsel of the mousse while giving the perfectly fried fresh foie escalopes the cold shoulder. You see, my guests do have to suffer sometimes…
So I was trying to come up with a way to use up that expensive chunk of fat and, what, is it meat? tissue? gland? taking advantage of everything good it brings while keeping the “strong” aspect muted. This is when I remembered the reviews I had been reading about some decadent, rich, unforgettable, perfect duck meatballs. There seemed to be common agreement that these were made of duck, pork and foie gras, bedded on celeriac puree and drizzled with cherry mostarda.
So I decided to re-create a dish, without recipe (which is an often situation in my kitchen and usually no problem) and without taste bud-memories (which, combined with the first condition, is a kind of a problem). As I was down with a cold and didn’t feel up to facing the marketplace on a rainy Saturday, I sent my lovely husband, armed with a long list of groceries, clearly stating how much at least of each I would be needing.
The meatballs turned out great. I have no idea if they tasted like a Voce‘s, but they definitely were deluxe comfort food, if there is any such thing. The meatballs were very tender and with such a depth, just the right amount of oomph, which came from the foie gras, not overpowering at all. T had no objections this time!
Oh, you are wondering about the lack of celeriac puree (and following that, the existence of couscous) in the picture above. I told you I sent my husband to the market, with very clear written instructions, didn’t I? So what are you still wondering about?
Instead, I got lovely flowers. And a surprise package from some crazy and lovely person over in the UK, out of which came, among other very nice things for a foodie’s heart, just the right thing to fight a cold: High quality dark chocolate with orange peel (Vitamin C!). Me, I will take flowers from my husband and a cuddle on the sofa munching chocolate over celeriac puree any day.
Wine: Drink a strong bodied white wine with this dish. You want some residual sugar to fight off the sweetness of the foie gras and to go along with the fattiness you need an oily quality to the wine, which is often found in white wines that have been in oak. Try German or Austrian Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) or Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) from barrique, at least 13% alcohol and, as mentioned, not bone dry (but not a sweet wine!). We drank a 2003 Weissburgunder Spätlese from Trautwein, Baden, Germany.
inspired by Andrew Carmellini‘s Duck meatballs in a Voce, N.Y.C.
prep: 30 mins
cook: 15 minutes + at least 1 hour unattended
duck leg, 1 (ca 400g, after deboning 250g)
pork shoulder, 250g
duck foie gras, fresh, 200g
spelt flour, 2 tbsp, plus more to roll the meatballs in
thyme, fresh, 1 tsp
sumac, 1 1/2 tsp
coriander, 1 tsp
pimento (allspice), 1 tsp
black pepper, freshly ground
Slightly freeze half of the foie gras. Let the other half stand at room temperature. Debone the duck leg, trim the excess fat. Chop the duck and pork meat finely. Finely dice the slightly frozen foie gras. In a big bowl mix the ground duck, ground pork, the unfrozen half of the foie gras, the egg, flour and the spices. Knead with your hands until it all comes together (the foie gras will feel like soft butter and will almost dissolve itself into a workable mass), but do not over-knead, as this will result in tougher meatballs. Now mix in the cubes of frozen foie gras. Form meatballs the size of walnuts. The mixture will feel not too firm, it should be slightly difficult to form the meatballs. To help them hold their shape, roll them in spelt flour until completely covered.
In a big and heavy pan with a matching lid, heat up some olive oil. The oil should cover the bottom. Fry the meatballs till nicely browned on the outside, in batches if necessary. Do not worry about them being cooked through, they will be cooked further later on in the sugo. Remove from the pan. Make the sugo in the same pan.
prep: 10 mins
cook: 15 min + at least 1 hour unattended
celeriac, 1/2, diced
carrots, 3, diced
onions, 4, diced
tomato paste, 2 tbsp
chicken (or duck) stock, 1 liter
sour cherry puree (or marmalade with high fruit %), 3 tbsp
plain mustard, 1tbsp
Brown the vegetables slowly in the leftover oil from the meatballs. Stir continuously, you don’t want them to get burnt but definitely browned. Add the tomato paste, stir to dissolve and begin adding the stock. At the beginning you want to add it only in small quantities, enough to help unstuck the vegetables but not too much. You want the stock to quickly evaporate and thus let the vegetables further caramelize, not boil. When the vegetables are browned, add the rest of the stock. Turn heat down to low. Add the meatballs and let everything simmer for at least an hour, better if you have time and forget about the pan for 2 hours.
Prepare plain couscous according to package instructions. Take the meatballs out of the sugo, mash the vegetables with an immersion blender. Mix in the sour cherry puree and the mustard, check for salt. On individual plates, first place some couscous, then meatballs over it. Pour a generous serving of the sugo over this and serve.
The meats: Would I buy foie gras explicitly for this recipe if I didn’t have any leftovers to start with? Yes. But be sure to go with the duck foie gras, as it is stronger in taste and will lend itself better to this preparation. If you can’t find it fresh, there are sometimes deep frozen escalopes in very good delis. You can of course buy your duck and pork already ground, but buying a duck leg is a good opportunity for training your deboning skills (and you may mess up, because the results are going to be ground anyways) and you can use the bone for making your own duck stock like I did.
The flavors: I was aware of the richness and sweetness of the meats (and foie) I was using, so I tried to give a bit of a sour and acidic touch to the whole meal. Hence the sumac, which worked perfect. Used spelt flour because of its slightly nutty flavor which I imagined (correctly!) to fit the foie very well. I guess the original cherry mostarda sauce was made with the same thoughts on the background. I initially wanted to make a cherry mostarda sauce based on a wine reduction, but after cooking the meatballs in the sugo for 2 hours I imagined all the good that was in there and decided to add some homemade sour cherry-balsamico marmalade (originally for accompanying cheese) and some mustard powder to the sugo. You could go ahead and just make the cherry sauce but do not throw the sugo away, it would make a perfect pasta sauce.
The base: The couscous was ok, really good to mop up the sauce but it didn’t add anything to the dish. Next time I will make a simple celeriac puree (cooked in milk and flavored with some nutmeg) as in the original dish. It will be a plus.