Eleven Madison Park: Foie Gras with Maple Syrup

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This was one dish that I was very excited to make. I had read about this for years: it was the dish that made Danny Meyer— while dining at San Francisco’s Campton Place— realize he found his new Eleven Madison Park chef in Daniel Humm.

I really enjoy making EMP foie gras dishes, as they are usually involved projects I can really immerse myself in. And, they usually turn out well. A time-consuming project, I decided I would complete this dish over the course of two days.

Although I was intrigued by the idea of combining foie with maple syrup, I was skeptical about shelling out the $30 for the high end syrup (BLiS) that Daniel Humm specifies in the book. After all, how much better could one brand of maple syrup really be? Well, it turns out A LOT of better. This syrup is aged in bourbon barrels, which makes it taste complex and delicious. I can’t wait to use the rest of it on waffles and pancakes.

As I’ve mentioned before, one challenging thing about EMP recipes is that they can contain several subrecipes, which can make completing one dish a daunting task. This was no exception, with five subrecipes in addition to the foie gras: a mushroom crumble, spiced crumble, shallot crumble, rye crumble, and apple gelee. Let’s take them one one-by-one.

The mushroom crumble, which consists of dehydrated sautéed hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, was relatively simple, though time consuming. It allowed me to use my dehydrator, which I liked. This is because my dehydrator is a device that my wife long ago said I would never use, and, of course, I can’t ever pass up an opportunity to prove her wrong.

The spice crumble was delicious, as it’s basically crumbled up homemade graham crackers. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that as the dough begins to bake and turn golden brown, the batter will still be relatively soft. Don’t over cook it to compensate for this. Take it out at as soon as its golden brown— it will harden as it cools.

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Sautéed and dehydrated hen-of-the-wood mushrooms. Yum.

The shallot crumble is one example (there are many) were Chef Humm makes things much more difficult than they need to be. I’ve made fried shallots many times. I simply bring canola oil to 325 degrees and fry them for about a minute until brown. This recipe calls for softly simmering them in oil for 30 minutes. Maybe this will result in a slightly more sophisticated flavor profile than my simple method, but I doubt it.

The rye crumble was super straightforward and easy. You’re basically just making pan-toasted bread crumbs.

Once all these crumbles were completed, it was time to mix them all together to form one master crumble. I must admit, I was skeptical about this, It didn’t seem like these disparate ingredients would go together, and that I would not enjoy the taste. However, I was dead wrong. The crumble was delicious. It was kind of like a savory granola that tasted like autumn. The mixture even looked like dead leaves. It was seasonal and delightful.

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Autumn crumble.

The Granny Smith gelee was also not too bad. I don’t have a juicer, so I used my Vitamix and a little water to provide the juice (straining it through a chinois). This component, however, is an example of how you really need to read every step of a recipe’s instructions very carefully. I started this dish the day before I was to complete it, and I didn’t realize the gelee needs to be held at room temperature, then inserted into the foie to set— essentially shortly before serving. So, in essence, I started this gelee more than 24 hours too early. To help remedy the situation, I sprinkled some citric acid to prevent the liquid from browning, and set it aside, hoping it would still be good the next day. It was.

Then it was on the the foie. I’ve made Chef Humm’s preparation lots of times, and it always involves cognac and maidera. However, I changed it up here and used calavados instead of traditional brandy, looking to amp up the autumn-esque feel of the dish. I also broke out my Tamis to make the foie super smooth. It was an expensive device, so I never pass up a chance to use it.

Since I was only making two portions of this dish, I used 1/4 the amount of foie specified. I actually find that Chef Hum’s foie recipes often call for more foie than necessary, especially in the strawberry foie gras black pepper sable dish in the first EMP cookbook.

With the foie gras marinated for 24 hours, it was time to actually form the wells that would hold the gelee and syrup. These steps seemed really daunting, even by Eleven Madison standards, and I had to read the instructions a dozen times to make sense of it all. I decided to forgo the template that the book says to create, and instead just made the tops separate. My plan was to cut out the bottom of the torchon first and then apply the top separately. Sometimes in a dish like this you have cut corners to make it realistic to pull off at home and on a first try. I realize an attitude like that would get me fired from a kitchen like Eleven Madison, but I’m doing this for fun, so….whatever.

Remember when I said that some of Chef Humm’s foie recipes call for more liver than’s needed? Yeah, well, not this one. Due to a lack of ample foie. I had difficulty rolling it out foie out the required 1/2 inch height, while making it wide enough for two whole portions. I kept taking the acetate off the bottom portions to measure the height of the torchon, and since the foie was not yet set, this resulted in the wells becoming rough and uneven. I was, therefore, afraid that due to imperfections in the sides of the well,  the maple syrup would not stay within the torchon. To fix this, I took some tempered foie I had on the counter, and sort of molded it around each rim. It didn’t look pretty, but I was hoping it would work.

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After filling each well with the gelee, I poured in the maple syrup and placed a thin foie gras cover on top. Although I own a blowtorch that I use for culinary purposes, I decided not to use it as directed here. After all, with all the crumble on top of the torchon, no one would see if there was a perfect seam or not. With the torchons completed, I spread the crumble on top. It looked good enough.

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My wife is usually a harsh critic when I’m trying out a new recipe, and I tend to be more lenient, having put in all the work. This was one case where the opposite applied: my wife as a bigger fan than I. Personally, I felt the dish tasted too “Foie-y,” if that makes sense. It was in some ways like eating raw foie gras. I also think the Calavados I used make it too sweet. I must say, however, that the crumble really went well together with everything, and, of course, the maple syrup was spot on.

My first reaction was that this is a dish I wouldn’t make again. However, I think I will give it another go at a dinner party, either this season or next. Often it takes a couple tries to really nail a recipe this complex, and I’m confident I can get it here.

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