Foie gras is not for the faint of heart. It's creamy, can be slightly gelatinous in texture, is as rich as a block of duck confit and comes with a hefty side of politics -- remember the ban was only lifted in January. But that didn't stop Eric Greenspan (Greenspan's Grilled Cheese) and Rose Lawrence (Red Bread) from devoting four hours on Tuesday night -- and four courses -- to the controversial duck livers.
It was the first of what will be many monthly pop-up dinner/cooking classes by Salted, a new website that offers members access to instructional cooking videos by more than 70 chefs, including Roy Choi (Kogi, Chego, the world), Ori Menashe (Bestia), Greenspan, Lawrence and more.
Tuesday night's event was held in the community room at the new Eastown housing and retail complex on Hollywood Boulevard. At around 7 p.m. nearly 30 guests arrived - some Facebook friends of Greenspan's, who had heard about the class via his page; and some couples on their version of a foodie-approved date. Being an unofficial pop-up dinner, guests were asked to make a suggested donation of $100.
The evening began with Greenspan's foie gras grilled cheese, made with thin slices of pan-seared foie and sweet preserves. This is as rich as a grilled cheese gets -- and it was just the beginning. Next to the grilled cheese, Greenspan created a charcuterie board with some Dijon mustard, salumi and duck pate.
Then it was time for the cooking class portion of the evening. Guests gathered around Greenspan's area of the kitchen for a demonstration on how to cook the perfect steak, how to pan-sear foie gras and how to make foie gras butter. As in his Salted TV classes, Greenspan explained meat temperature, the importance of using a cast iron skillet, using oil vs. butter, how to butter baste in your pan and more.
"The most valuable tool in the kitchen is a paper clip," Greenspan proclaimed to his small audience. He then explained how he uses the tip of the paper clip to approximate the temperature of the meat. Right.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras's marketing director, Rick Bishop, also stopped by to talk about the farm and how the ducks are raised, before Greenspan demonstrated how to pan-sear a piece of foie gras, and baste it in its own fat.
People huddled around the chef's cooking station, armed with their smartphones, snapping photos of the sizzling foie, "ooing and ahing" at the sheer gluttony of it all.
Then Lawrence made a basic pastry dough, giving everyone tips and tricks for how to make the perfect dough.
Then it was time to eat. Greenspan -- who calls himself the poster child for foie gras -- cooked the first three courses.
First came a foie torchon served with roasted lemon, a pistachio nut paste and a toasted crostini; then seared foie gras on top of frisee, with chestnuts, blocks of quince and crumbled blue cheese. For the main course, there was beef tenderloin topped with pads of foie butter over potato gnocchi and Swiss chard. One guest remarked that she'd never been so happy to see a green vegetable in her life.
For dessert, Lawrence made her famous pop tarts, but this time, she stuffed them with strawberry preserves and foie gras. She topped the pastries with a black pepper icing.
The foie effects started to kick in. You could see sweat on multiple diners' brows.
People left with goodie bags filled with strawberry pop tarts for breakfast the next day. Assuming anyone felt like eating again.
If you're interested in attending the next Salted cooking class and pop-up dinner, www.saltedlive.com.
When life gives me lemons, I make gin sours. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_