To the dismay of many New Year’s Eve revellers, Chambar (562 Beatty Street) will not be throwing its popular party on December 31. With a move down the street on the horizon for 2014, co-owners Nico and Karri Schuermans will be escaping Vancouver and ringing in the new year with a family vacation to Colombia.
While the chef prefers a low-key celebration, he knows that many people like to dress up and enjoy high-end food before the stroke of midnight. “At New Year’s Eve, people want to feel like they’re celebrating with luxury,” Nico Schuermans tells the Georgia Straight during an interview.
Schuermans, who also co-owns neighbouring Café Medina and the Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen, was raised in Belgium and recalls lavish New Year’s celebrations in Europe. He started working in the restaurant industry as a teenager, mainly because he didn’t enjoy school.
“I was the kind of kid who always needed to be standing up,” he recalls.
A few years later, Schuermans began honing his craft at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Brussels before cooking in Australia and moving to Canada. When he opened Chambar in 2004, his goal was to create dishes with unique flavours. “I don’t like barriers or limitations in food. I try to create something different than what I’ve tasted before, with some traditional French-style cooking as well. That is my background. But I worked at a Moroccan restaurant and a Spanish restaurant, so I have a lot of that influence too,” he says.
Chambar is one of a number of Vancouver restaurants that unapologetically serve foie gras, a controversial product made from the livers of fattened ducks. Schuermans argues that not all foie gras is produced in the same way, and he stands behind the meat that he buys from Canadian farmers. “I think a lot of people are intimidated by foie gras. They just don’t understand what it is,” he says. “The way they [ducks] are grown, it’s not wrong. It is a meat product, so it gets produced on a big scale, but it’s not what people think it is, the force-feeding.”
Schuermans enjoys cooking and eating foie gras terrine, especially on celebratory occasions such as New Year’s Eve. “Back at home, we would do foie gras, smoked salmon, oysters, and caviar—all the expensive products,” he notes.
The most challenging aspect of making foie gras terrine at home is keeping the temperature of the meat constant, he says, especially during the cleaning process. “You have to treat it [the liver] like butter. It will melt down and will never go back to its original state.”
He suggests placing the foie gras in the freezer to keep it cool between steps and working quickly when the meat is at room temperature. To pair with the dish, Schuermans recommends a sweet wine such as port.
Nico Schuermans’s foie gras terrine
1.1 lb (500 g) Grade A foie gras
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt
1 Tbsp (15 mL) seasoning spice, consisting of 1½ tsp (7 mL) sugar, ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom, ½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger, and ½ tsp (2 mL) cinnamon
½ cup (125 mL) port
½ cup (125 mL) fino sherry
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh whole green peppercorns
- Remove the foie gras from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow it to come up to room temperature.
- Separate the two lobes of the foie gras by gently pulling them apart. Using your thumbs, push down along the centre of each lobe to soften the liver without breaking it apart. Remove as many large red veins as possible with the tip of a paring knife. Keep small pieces of liver that have broken off the lobes, which should be approximately ½ cup (125 mL), for making the mousse.
- Season all sides of each lobe with salt and seasoning spice. Push the lobes back together so that they form one brick. Place the brick on a plate lined with parchment paper, cover the plate with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes while preparing the mousse.
- Pour the port and sherry into a small pot over medium heat. Once the mixture boils, remove from heat.
- Take the ½ cup (125 mL) of liver pieces that have broken off and press them through a fine sieve into a large bowl to create a purée. Add the alcohol and peppercorns to the bowl, and whisk together. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Preheat oven to 325 ° F (170 ° C).
- Remove the foie gras from the freezer. In a large sauté pan over high heat, sear for 1 minute on each side, or until browned. Immediately remove from heat.
- Line an oven-safe terrine pan (about 12 inches by 2 inches by 2 inches) with two layers of plastic wrap. Make sure enough plastic wrap hangs over each side to completely cover the top of the terrine.
- Using a small spoon, spread a thin layer of mousse along the bottom of the pan. Trim the seared foie gras with a knife so that it matches the shape of your pan. Place it in the pan, pushing down firmly so that it moulds to the pan. Spread remaining mousse over top. Cover the top of the terrine with the excess plastic wrap and press down firmly.
- Place terrine pan in a larger pan. Fill outer pan with boiling water until water reaches a quarter of the way up the sides of the terrine pan. Bake in oven for 8 minutes.
- Remove the double pan from the oven, and let terrine cool at room temperature for 20 minutes. Remove the terrine pan from the outer pan. Place terrine pan in the fridge for 24 hours with a heavy board (such as a wooden cutting board) over top to press it down.
- To serve, lift terrine out of pan by holding onto plastic wrap, then remove wrap. Run a sharp knife under hot water, then slice into five pieces. Serve with toast or crackers.
Yield: five main-course servings.
Recipe has not been tested by the Georgia Straight.