I am not one to get starstuck normally. I can think of only two occasions in my life where I was all out of sorts when seeing a celebrity. The first time was many, many years ago in the early 80s when I was a kid and I saw Tim Raines at an amusement park with his kids. In case you don’t know who he is, he revolutionized the lead off position in baseball and was adored in Montreal while he played here. I was with my uncle and he didn’t mince words with me. “Go say hi if you want but don’t be a pain in the ass.” You could say that to a kid back then without having youth protection called on you. So I shyly walked up and said hello. That was it. And that was all I wanted really.
The other time was when I was planning a trip to New York City and I boldly predicted to anyone who would listen that I would meet my future bride, Minka Kelly, there. She’s an actress who is more stunning than a tranquilizer gun for an elephant. That’s a fierce prediction in a city of 357 million people. So imagine my surprise that while eating at Gramercy Tavern I was a mere few tables away from her and some baseball dirtbag boyfriend she was dating at the time. I maintain to this day that had I not had lamb sauce all down my shirt that we would be telling our kids this story of how we met. Damn you succulent lamb!!
To say that I was excited to be taking a foie gras class with Au Pied de Cochon’s Martin Picard would be an understatement. What I wasn’t expecting was to wake up Saturday morning with that nervous stomach and jitters like you get before a first date. I wanted to get ready way ahead of time and leave with lots of time to spare in case I couldn’t find parking or whatnot but I’ve got a 4 year old and a 7 year old at home and one thing leads to another and I leave with little time to spare. Missing this class was not an option so I did the only natural, responsible thing. I drove my car like the wind. I score free parking, well to be honest I parked and just hoped it was free. I was too excited to read the signs. I walk up to the address of the Mezza Luna school and BLAMO I am hit with total panic. What I am looking at is a simple apartmant door. No Sign. Nothing to distinguish it from any other door near it. Holy sweet merciful crap I must be at the wrong spot!! I text my buddy who is taking a class with me and after an agonizingly long 37 seconds he tells me not to worry, that is the spot. Maybe a heads up next time dude!
Class starts and we’ll be learning two preparations of foie gras: seared foie gras with a cranberry, raspberry and shallot sauce and a terrine of foie gras. Ya baby! Martin (ya we’re on a first name basis now) first goes through a description of how the ducks are raised and fed in order to become what we know as foie gras. Particularly of note was Picard’s description of the process of capturing the sperm of a duck to fertilize a female. His imitation of how the duck begins to, umm for lack of a discreet way to say this, shake its ass as it get excited was priceless. “Then when the corkscrew shaped penis comes out in your face….umm wait not your face but you know, when it comes out, well, it’s beautiful.” He had a great way of being funny without seeming to be his intention. So far he seems as down to earth and humble as he appears on TV. But man, when he starts to really talk about food you can just see the mad love for it in his eyes. You see he is above all else, a simple lover of food.
We’re also told we’ll be removing the veins from a foie in pairs later in the course. I am pumped since I have never worked with a loaf of fresh foie gras in my life but scared as hell to doing so in front if my favorite chef. What if I choke and ruin the foie? This stuff does not come cheap. The high grade stuff, which we are using, can run to over 100$ per kilo. We won’t be doing the whole process of preparing the terrine since it takes several days before it is ready but he walks us through the entire process in great detail. The seared foie gras does seem to be the much simpler route. You just slice it on a bias at about 3/4 inch thick pieces and give them a quick sear, stopping the cooking process by placing it in the freezer for a few minutes, then keeping it in the fridge until you warm them up later in the oven for about 7 minutes. The cooling process is essential to the dish. You cannot simply sear then roast in the oven. The foie will likely begin to fall apart if you do that and become grainy. Like all simple things I would imagine it is just as simple to mess it up if you are not on point but so long as you focus and make a kick ass sauce to go with this you should be fine.
As for the terrine…Martin told us that while people are intimidated by this step that removing the veins is pretty simple. I was nervous as hell for this part. Here we are with what many consider to be the world’s leading authority on foie gras(his restaurant does sell the most of it globally-and by far!) over our shoulders as we try not to completely violate the poor yet valuable piece of foie before us. All told, finding the veins was simple enough. Removing them felt like a very expensive game of Operation. I am sure if there was a buzzer to warn us we had messed up like in that game, we would have heard it a few times. Both myself and my friend George can be extremely hard on ourselves when we cook (I am known to spank myself with a wooden spoon when I mess up) but when Martin inspected our loaf of foie he said despite us digging in too deep in one spot that we did pretty good. YES!!!
We got to then sit and enjoy the fruits of our (mostly Picard and his main man Vincent) labour. The terrine was simple, served with no type of garnish through it, just foie, great bread, and an incredibly simple yet amazing fig and cream sauce. The seared foie paired perfectly with the fruits and it was just like eating heaven on a plate. The setting at Mezza Luna is quite intimate and cozy. I highly recommend checking it out and taking a class there. Some of the top chefs in the city give classes there. I had no idea what to expect of the class but Picard was welcoming, friendly and funny as hell. He’s gaining attention all across the planet. If you have a chance to learn from him, take it!
It’s not every day I’ll get to learn directly from the likes of Picard and break bread with him and while I don’t usually fuss over who I meet I knew I would likely not meet him again. So I did something I don’t normally ever do. I asked if he could sign my copy of his cookbook and I asked if I could take a picture with him. Call me a fanboy or whatever but look how gorgeous and content I look in that picture. I am the sexy one who is like a foot shorter than everyone else in case you were wondering. Oh and yes, we are best friends now.
Categories: Phood Philosophies