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Foie Gras Terrine

Artisan Bistro's homegrown chef shows how to make his favorite dish.


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Knowing how John Marquez first got going with cooking, you wouldn’t necessarily peg the Artisan Bistro chef as the foie gras type.

  Marquez got his start at, of all places, Monte Vista High. Not only did the Danville school have a catering class available to Marquez even though he attended San Ramon Valley High, but it had woks and high-heat cooking right in the classroom. The woks, the fire, the thought of working the line fascinated Marquez, and after he graduated, he went straight to Diablo Valley College to get his culinary arts certificate.

He then took his training on the road, working at Blackhawk Grille, Bridges, and the Ritz Carlton. During this time, he started to define himself as a chef and became drawn to the French classic way of cooking and dining. Marquez’s family is Peruvian (he lived in Lima until he was 15), and he’s used to mealtimes where the whole family actually sits at the table and dines. He found the grace of French dining soothingly familiar and was captivated by the tradition of the French kitchen. He was especially taken with how deeply involved French chefs are with their ingredients and how they make nearly everything by hand.

With this in mind, Marquez landed a job with Lutèce in Las Vegas. While there, he followed another tradition: He offered his services for free at Picasso, in order to learn from the executive chef, Julian Serrano.

Four months later, he was on its payroll, and after a few years at Picasso, he came back to the Bay Area to work at Elisabeth Daniel in San Francisco, and then the French Laundry. Thomas Keller sent him to New York as one of the opening cooks at Per Se, and then he returned to Yountville to help reopen the French Laundry, which had been shut while Per Se was launched. Marquez says that all of these experiences taught him palate and artistry, and that Keller taught him finesse.

In 2008, Marquez left cooking to be more available after his wife had a baby, working as a waiter at Fringale. But, once a cook always a cook. Fringale needed a chef, and before long, Marquez was back behind the stove. By this time, he says he was fully formed as a chef—his vision was clear, and he began to look for a place of his own. When the space that was Gigi in Lafayette freed up last February, the Danville native easily took the leap and opened Artisan Bistro.

Artisan, as its name implies, is all about the craft. Ingredients are fresh and local (his pork comes from a farm in Manteca), produce is respectfully handled as soon as it crosses the kitchen threshold, equipment is minimal, and the processing is in the hands of the chef.

At Artisan, Marquez explores the classics, combining French and California cuisine. One of his favorite ingredients, which melds the two cuisines, is foie gras. Marquez loves the flavor and smooth texture of the foie gras he gets from Sonoma. It lends itself to many possibilities, but the traditionalist in him prefers to prepare it as a terrine.

Good thing Monte Vista had a cooking class.

Making the Foie Gras Terrine

 

PREP WORK: The foie gras terrine begins three days before you order it at Artisan Bistro. First, the foie gras lobes are soaked in milk overnight. The lobes are removed from the milk, patted dry, and left at room temperature, until they soften. With a razor-sharp knife, Marquez removes the veins, connective tissue, and anything else that would interrupt the silky texture of the foie gras.

 

PRODUCTION: The liver is cured in salt, sugar, brandy, and white pepper overnight. Then, it is baked at 200 degrees for 45 minutes on a bed of ice, a slow cold poach. After that, it is removed from the ice and placed in a terrine, where it is weighted and pressed overnight in the refrigerator, until it is firm and sliceable.

 

PLATING: At Artisan, the foie gras terrine is served with toasted brioche, balsamic, kumquat, and red grape carpaccio—or with baby arugula, radish, yellow endive, leeks, and grain mustard sauce. Marquez assures us that the terrine will be a staple of the menu, but the accompaniments will change according to the season.

 

Artisan Bistro, 1005 Brown Ave., Lafayette, (925) 962-0882, artisanlafayette.com.
 

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