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Monday, January 24, 2011

No. 81: Commonwealth's Cured Foie Gras with Salted Plum Puree

Posted By on Mon, Jan 24, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Commonwealth's cured foie gras with salted plum purée. - COOKING WITH THE SINGLE GUY

SFoodie's countdown of the 92 best things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.


No dish better symbolizes Jason Fox's gutsy cooking at Commonwealth quite like

his cured foie gras (not on the tasting menu right now, but still pictured on

its website). And by gutsy, SFoodie means jumping-off-a-cliff risky, treating ingredients in less-conventional ways and coming up with startling flavor combinations.

Fox molds a lobe of raw foie gras into a cylinder, then salt-cures the meat. The curing process leaves the meat tasting even more delicate

than when it is seared or poached; cured foie gras, incidentally, also retains all its fat. For service, the chef slices off a coin, places it on a warm plate to soften up and become spreadable. Then he smears a spoonful of bright purple umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) purée across the plate and finishes the dish with toasted slices of a house-baked, nori-flecked bread.

The intense, and intensely acidic, flavor of pickled plums almost has an electrical charge. Umeboshi is a dangerous ingredient, which can shock and numb the palate if used too generously, and SFoodie has seen more than a few Asian-fusion dishes ruined by the ill-considered use of pickled plums. But here, the stridency of the plums is perfectly pitched to counterbalance the unctuousness of the foie gras.

The nori toast does something quite different. The mineral-tinged, oceanic flavor of the seaweed slips in underneath the umeboshi to goose the analytical part of the brain. It does a double-take: Is this duck or monkfish liver? Every waiter at every sushi bar in America describes ankimo as "foie gras of the sea," but here the comparison is reversed. The illusion is more appealing than it might sound. A sip of wine washes away the doubts, a second exploratory bite leads to a third, and soon the plate is empty ― and you're ready for the next gastronomic conundrum Fox serves up.

Commonwealth: 2224 Mission (at 18th St.), 355-1500,

Dishes in our series so far:

92: Goat tacos from El Norteño

91: Faux shark's fin soup at Benu

90: Esperpento's alcachofas a la plancha

89: Poco Dolce's olive oil chocolate bar

88: Decantr's chicken-liver mousseline

87: Outerlands' levain bread

86: Fraîche's frozen yogurt

85: Gyro King's spinach pie

84: Tandoori fish from Lahore Karahi

83: Braised oxtail and daikon from Namu

82: Golden Gate Bakery's custard tart

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @jonkauffman

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