I was once told that a successful amuse-gueule—little treats served before a meal—is like the opening line of a novel: It should catch your attention and set a tone for things to come. When fresh figs are in season, I serve them stuffed with foie gras as the “Call me Ishmael” of a celebratory feast.—Katherine Alford
For the foie gras mousse
6 ounces grade-B or -C duck foie gras, clean
2 tablespoons Cognac, Armagnac, or Sauterne
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup chicken stock
2 sprigs thyme
2 gratings nutmeg
1 tablespoon minced summer or black winter truffle (optional)
For the figs
1 pound fresh Black Mission or green figs
2 ounces homemade foie gras mousse (above) or, to save time, store-bought mousse
2 teaspoons verjus (available in specialty foods stores), or 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar diluted with 1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon sliced almonds, toasted and finely chopped (see Note)
Make the foie gras mousse
1. Combine the foie gras, Cognac, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Drain the foie gras–marinating liquid into a small saucepan. Add the stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 minute to make a poaching broth.
3. Put the foie gras in the hot broth, cover, and turn off the heat. Poach for 5 minutes, or until the foie gras has an internal temperature of 115°F (45°C). Remove the foie gras from the broth. Transfer the broth to a small bowl and set over ice to cool it to room temperature. Return the foie gras to the cool liquid and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Remove the foie gras from the liquid, pat dry, and purée the foie gras along with any rendered fat in a food processor until smooth. (If the mousse gets a broken, curdy look to it, add about 1 tablespoon of the poaching liquid to stabilize the emulsion.) Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the nutmeg and truffle, if desired. Transfer the mousse to a ramekin. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving.
Make the figs
1. Trim the stem end of the figs. With the tip of a serrated apple corer, a melon baller, or a grapefruit knife, cut a small round out of the bottom of each fig and reserve. Carefully scoop about one-third of the flesh from the center of each fig and reserve.
2. In a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer, beat the foie gras mousse or prepared foie gras until it is light, like a buttercream icing. Put the mousse or foie gras in a pastry bag and pipe it into the figs. Plug each fig with a reserved round piece of fig. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until the mousse or foie gras is firm.
3. In a small pan, heat the reserved fig flesh with the verjus or vinegar mixture until liquefied. Press through a fine-meshed sieve to remove the seeds.
4. To serve, cut each fig in half lengthwise and brush the cut side with the glaze. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.
Note: Toasting nuts
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Bake until brown, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon size.
Recipe © 2001 Katherine Alford. All rights reserved.