Pâté de foie gras History and French law

Pâté, pate, chicken liver, spread, dip, recipes, receipts
Pâté. Erik Rank/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Pâté de foie gras is considered an ultimate culinary delight, the king of pâtés. Along with its pedigree comes a hefty price tag. Foie gras is French for "fat liver," and this pâté is made from the livers of specially fattened geese or duck.

The practice of force-feeding geese to enlarge their livers dates back to at least 400 B.C. Egyptian hieroglyphics depict slaves force-feeding geese to enlarge the livers.



French chef Jean-Joseph Clause is credited with creating and popularizing pâté de foie gras in 1779. Chef Clause's culinary genius was rewarded a gift of twenty pistols by King Louis XVI , and he obtained a patent for the dish in 1784. He went on to begin his own business specializing in supplying pâté to the gentry. By 1827, Strasberg was known as the goose-liver capital of the world.

French Law and Pâté de Foie Gras

French law requires at least eighty percent of pâté de foie gras must be the liver, but sadly the law is often circumvented. Mousse or purée de foie gras contains even less, 55 percent. Although other pâtés can be served warm or hot, the delicate texture of foie gras melts too easily, so pâté de foie gras is served chilled.

Most of us cannot afford the luxury of French pâté de foie gras very often or don't agree with the force-feeding of the animals, so we satisfy our cravings with a more than acceptable chopped liver pâté made of chicken livers.

More about Pâté:

What is pâté?
• Pâté Cooking Tips and Hints
• Pâté Recipes

Cookbooks

  • Duck & Goose Cookery
  • The Complete Book of Chicken
  • The New York Times Chicken Cookbook
  • More Cookbooks