Seared Foie Gras with Berry Jam: Third Time Lucky With Schneider-Kreuznach

Foie gras. There are few other more controversial foods in this decade that foie gras [raw milk might top the list]. The fattened liver of a duck or goose is the antithesis of what tree-hugging, vegan locavores would want for us to eat, and their protests have forced great chefs like Martin Picard from Au Pied du Cochon to refuse to cook when confronted by their protests. In Chicago, Hot Doug’s rebelled by serving up their foie gras hot dog, but it is a tough battle ahead within the American market. The irony is that while people will eat young lambs, cows, chickens or pigs, they take a stand on duck liver. Certainly, the goat or the lamb is far cuter than a duck, and the pig has far more personality, so why the outrage? Force-feeding is what it is, and most foie gras farming operations take far better care of their precious animals than the McFranken Farms most citizen buy their Big Mac Attack from. I’m just saying…
Tonight, I had to sear a slice of duck foie gras that I bought on Friday in anticipation of V.’s visit. Sadly, we missed out on cooking it over the weekend, and it had to be used tonight. Without a gas stove, foie gras is a challenge to sear properly. I used my deBuyer pan on high heat, sear for 50 seconds per side and then plated on toasts with a berry jam made from gooseberries, blackberries, cranberries and Grand Marnier liqueur. When I went to eat the actual serving, I re-seared the foie gras in bite-sized pieces to firm the interior. The wine was a nice Cave Spring Late Harvest Riesling for about $24 a half-bottle, and it matched acidity against the fat of the liver in a superb fashion. Hannibal Lecter never had it so good.  The camera was the third time for the cardboard monster – a Linhof view camera with a Schneider-Kreuznach lens attached to a Canon 1DmkIII digital body.
An aperture of f.ll took me into a much sharper depth of field, and from the file I would say that is the basic starting aperture for this set-up to match digital lenses. I have yet to properly check my white balance because I am too engaged with proper focus technique, and trying to deal with the notorious challenge of melting foie gras. Personally, I prefer the portrait orientation for the view camera and food, but the framing on the landscape was easier to deal with. I am still only shooting in the kitchen lights on a terrible table to test out the technique – with an actual set and lights my compositions should prove much richer and open. At 210mm the framing is quite tight because I do not want too much of a distracting background to hamper the experiments.
Looking at the quality of the file at f.11, I would hazard that f.16 might be the sweet spot for this lens/camera comb0; high amount of smooth bokeh and strong focus through the chosen area. I would also guess that a 150mm or 180mm would prove to be an ideal working lens for me. The 210mm will work for portraits, but I want a bit more width up close than I can get at 210mm. Seeing the quality in these two files makes the whole ideal of shooting this way feasible in exciting ways for those few hero shots that need a little special touch, and the layout for a third lens and the Fotodiox back adapter will still be about half of the cost for a less versatile TS 90mm lens from Canon. back to the drawing board, Herr Frankenstein.
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