By Harold McGee
Of the various animal innards that cooks have put to good use, one deserves special mention, because it is in a way the ultimate meat, the epitome of animal flesh and its essential appeal. Foie gras is the “fat liver” of force-fed geese and ducks. It has been made and appreciated since Roman times and probably long before; the force-feeding of geese is clearly represented in Egyptian art from 2500 BCE. It’s a kind of living pâté, ingeniously prepared in the growing bird before it’s slaughtered. Constant overnourishment causes the normally small, lean, red organ to grow to 10 times its normal size and reach a fat content of 50 to 65%. The fat is dispersed in insensibly fine droplets within the liver cells, and creates an incomparably integrated, delicate blend of smoothness, richness, and savoriness.