Farro and foie

I’ve blogged this dish because I love it and really wanted to share it. However, I’ve now made it six or seven times and not once, seriously not once, have I remembered to take photos of it. So you’ll have to use your imaginations or have a look at Fatgirl Hedonist’s blog about her experience – there’s a photo there. I’ve no doubt I’ll be making it again soon though, so will post photos when I do.

One of my favourite food memories, one I revisit regularly, is of a wild boar and foie gras sausage at Bocca di Lupo in Soho, London.

I’m not going to set the scene, drag you with me through a recollection of slushy London streets on a rainy autumn afternoon. I’m not going to tell you I had no reservation at a restaurant that ritualistically cannot seat you without one. Build suspense about my teary conversation with the hostess and finally being given a seat at (gasp!) the best table in the house – the bar, a front row seat to watching the magic happen.

I’m not going to do any of that, I’m simply going to tell you about one perfect mouthful of food.

So it was the wild boar and foie gras sausage served on a little mountain of steaming hot farro. It was fine. Nice. Better than nice. Delicious even. But mostly it was just sausage and farro. And then one perfect forkful – the foie gras had melted. It leaked  and oozed and spilled out of the sausage and puddled onto the plate. My next, slightly disinterested mouthful (I was reading a pretty interesting book at the time) is the one I think about regularly. A small heap of nutty farro grains on the end of my fork, each one perfectly coated in the unctuous, rich, fatty foie gras. Simply the best mouthful of food ever.

I think about it often. I’ve even been back and tried to recreate that perfect moment. It’s good, always good, just never quite the same. But still, I think about it often.

And of course, I did actually try to recreate it myself. I don’t think I’ll ever manage an exact replica of that one perfect mouthful – too many stars would have to align to make it so, but this is what I did…

First I bought a tronchon of foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Duck Products. I cut it into chunks, wrapped each one in cling film and popped them in the freezer (and promptly forgot about them). But then, when I remembered them, I did the following.

I cooked up some farro. Steaming hot, al dente, well seasoned. Then I used a microplane to grate a generous mound of foie gras into a chilled dish (if you try this, chill your dish in the freezer and immediately after grating the foie gras put the whole lot back into the freezer until you need it). When I was ready to serve I spooned the foie gras (again, generously) onto the farro and stood back and watched as the curls of foie gras unfurled and started to melt. Delicious. Almost perfect. But missing something.

I did it again. Exactly as I had done before but this time with a tablespoon of foie gras stirred through the farro before I plated it. Really, so close to perfect but still missing a little something. Balance. Texture. Sweetness.

So I did it again. Exactly as I had done before but this time with a tablespoon of foie gras stirred through it before I plated and with a teaspoon of crushed peanut brittle – salty, sweet, bitter peanut brittle – sprinkled on top.

It was perfect.

In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that none of these ideas are exactly mine – I’ve already come clean about the farro/foie gras pairing being a Bocca di Lupo creation. The grated foie gras is something David Chang does at Momofuku Ko and his dish also features a brittle, though at Ko they use pine nut not peanut and I suspect it is somewhat less bitter than mine. I let the caramel go a little further than I normally would with a brittle because I thought the bitterness would add an additional flavour layer to the dish. I was very happy with the result. I think my guests were too.