I invented this recipe before Beast opened, when I was catering the wrap party for director Gus Van Sant’s movie Paranoid Park, which was filmed in Portland. Many of the actors were French, and the party was held on Bastille Day, so I wanted to make something special for them.
I didn’t have much experience cooking foie gras, so I called my friend and former sous chef Gabriel Rucker (now of Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro), who gave me the inspired advice to melt the foie a little bit before blending it into a mousse, a step that ultimately helps the mousse set properly. And I knew I wanted the dish to taste slightly like dessert, which is where the vanilla and figs come in. You can use any fig variety, as long as the fruits feel fairly soft and ripe. Drier varieties such as Black Mission are easier to caramelize, which you can do with a handheld torch.
The mousse itself has become a signature dish at Beast: it is the filling in the foie gras bonbon that’s been on our charcuterie plate since we opened.
- Yield: 12 Servings
- 8 ounces foie gras
- ½ vanilla bean
- 1 teaspoon Calvados
- 125 teaspoon pink curing salt no. 1 (see salt)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 8 ripe figs
- 4 teaspoons sugar
- Cut the foie gras into 1½-inch cubes and place them in a small square baking dish.
- Using a paring knife, cut the vanilla bean in half along its length. Use the knife to flatten the pod gently against the countertop, and then scrape out the seeds with the blade. Add the vanilla seeds and half pod, the Calvados, curing salt, and salt to the foie gras. Gently toss the foie gras cubes, coating them evenly with the other ingredients. Let sit on the countertop for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Roast the seasoned foie gras for 2 to 3 minutes. The foie should feel slightly firm to the touch in the center and should have lost a little liquid (fat). Remove the foie from the oven and remove and discard the vanilla pod. Carefully transfer the contents of the baking dish to a strainer set over a small bowl. Place the strainer and bowl in the refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes, until the foie is cold to the touch. The strained foie fat can be reserved for another use, such as spreading on toast.
- Place the cold foie gras mixture in a food processor and, using short bursts, pulse 10 to 15 times, until the foie forms a smooth and uniform paste. Don’t overprocess. Because the volume is small, the foie gras can overheat, which will cause the mousse to break. Scoop the foie gras paste into a fine-mesh strainer and push it through with a flexible rubber spatula or bowl scraper to remove any membrane.
- Fill a disposable pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch round tip (or a plastic bag with a ½-inch corner cut off) with the foie gras mousse and squeeze the mousse to the tip of bag. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Pipe out teardrop-shaped orbs of mousse (about the size of a Hershey’s Kiss, with a base just larger than the size of a quarter) onto the prepared baking sheet. Place in the freezer to completely cool and harden, about 30 minutes.
- Trim off the stem from each fig, then cut the figs in half lengthwise. Cut a 1⁄16-inch-thick slice off the rounded side of each fig half so it will sit flat. Place the fig halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet with no parchment or lining of any kind. Sprinkle each fig with ⅛ teaspoon sugar, and then toast with a handheld torch until the sugar melts and forms a thin, hard crust on the surface of the fig, about 5 seconds per fig. Sprinkle another ⅛ teaspoon sugar on top of the initial sugar layer and repeat torching until the sugar is bubbling and completely melted, forming an even (not thick) crust of crunchy, melted sugar. Let cool completely, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet of foie gras mousse from the freezer. Using an offset spatula, gently slide each teardrop of mousse off the baking sheet and onto a fig half. Before serving, allow the piped foie gras to temper until firm but no longer frozen, 15 to 20 minutes.