You don’t have to go to France to get great foie gras. You need go no further than this city’s Maguire Avenue. There you will find Le Canard Goulu, a specialty food boutique dedicated to the delicacies of the fatted duck.
Their farm is in Saint-Apollinaire, a village half an hour to the southwest of Québec City, where they raise close to 30,000 Cairina moschata per year. Better known as the Barbary duck, this domesticated bird is excellently suited to the production of foie gras. The ducks arrive at the farm just days old, then are fed and fattened for twelve weeks. For the final two weeks, an intensive regimen of cornmeal increases the size of the duck’s liver tenfold, and transforms it into the buttery wonder that writer Charles Gérard called “le fruit suprême de la gastronomie.”
I recently had an opportunity to take part in a private demonstration at the Maguire Avenue location. Our host was Le Canard Goulu’s executive chef, Martin Guillemette. Trained at the École Hôtelière de la Capitale and seasoned at some of Québec City’s best restaurants, Martin has been the creative culinary force at Le Canard Goulu since 2007. Among his responsibilities: consulting with the farm in order to optimize the products they put forth, creating new recipes to add to the boutique’s prêt-à-manger offering, and – most enticingly – preparing succulent, multi-course meals for the clients who have had the good sense to rent the private, second-floor dining room.
Martin captivated us with the science and art of preparing foie gras, walking us through several different preparation methods. We learned how to devein the liver; use a spoon, not a knife! He explained that Sauternes and Cognac serve perfectly to make a great terrine. And finally, he showed us how to use fine sea salt and a hot skillet to achieve a perfect sear every time.