Caldereta (or Kaldereta if you're nasty) is an honest to goodness meat stew influenced by both Spain and the United States, but yet remains uniquely Filipino.
Caldereta's roots in Spain can be found in its Spanish name (of course), but also in its preparation wherein Spaniards braised meat (usually mutton) and vegetables in a tomato-based sauce. Filipinos began making their own version of their colonizer's stew by utilizing goat meat and then thickening the tomato sauce with mashed pork livers (take that Spain!).
And with the American occupation of the Philippines came all the trappings of post-war convenience foods and canned goods. Soon, the likes of tomato paste, canned tomato sauce, canned pork liverwurst, and even processed cheese, all made their way into Caldereta (this all tastes a lot better than it sounds).
While I do love a warm and hearty bowl of goat kaldereta thickened with liverwurst (seriously, I do), I have tried to fancify the dish once before by making a wonderful version with beef, red wine, and a homemade chicken liver pate. And although I was quite pleased with that version, I've since found that nothing beats caldereta thickened with canned liverwurst. But there is always room for experimentation.
So when my older brother recently returned from a trip to Europe and gifted me a couple cans of foie gras, the first thing that popped into my head wasn't to eat the foie with toast points and some sort of sweet/sour fruit--it was Caldereta.
Yes, I was going use fancy canned foie gras in place of the usual $2 can of pork liverwurst in my Caldereta. This was either going to be the greatest beef stew ever made, or a complete waste of foie gras.
Now entering the game for Steve Urkel...
Like many other cultures around the world, Filipinos have been eating nose-to-tail since, like, forever. So the use of pork livers as a sauce thickener isn't anything out of the ordinary for us. Pork livers also pop up in Pinoy dishes like Igado, a pork and liver stew. And we also utilize pork livers in a sweet-ish sauce used for dipping lechon and lechon kawali. But fancy pants duck liver?
I realize that there may be some foie gras lovers out there that would gasp at the thought of throwing the prized duck liver into a homey stew like Caldereta. Egads man! What are you doing with that foie!
But it's not like I was using an actual lobe of duck liver, or even a homemade torchon de foie gras--rather, it was merely prepared foie gras in a can ($15-$20 for a 250g can). And besides, I was gifted two cans. So I rationalized that not all would be lost if things went horribly wrong with this experiment.
Luckily, nothing was lost.
To make this fancier-pantsier version of Caldereta, I used beef short ribs rather than the chuck I used previously. I browned the short ribs in a big Dutch oven and then set them aside. I then sauteed some onions, carrots, and garlic with some red pepper flakes in the same Dutch oven for a few minutes until the veggies softened, then threw in a hefty tablespoon of tomato paste and let that cook for another 5 minutes.
I then dumped in a cup of red wine to deglaze the pot, and let the wine reduce for a few minutes. Then to the pot came a small can of tomato sauce, and a bay leaf, and only half of the can of foie gras (about 125g). After breaking up the foie with a spoon and stirring it into the sauce, I returned the browned ribs back to the pot, added just enough water to cover the ribs, and let the whole shebang simmer for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, I took the ribs out of the pot and reduced the sauce over high heat for about 10 minutes. Then, I took my trusty stick blender and blended the sauce until it was nice and smooth and all of the veggies and foie had become one. In went some diced red and green bell peppers (these remained unblended for some texture), some salt and pepper, and the ribs again.
I also sliced up the rest of the foie gras (I only used half a can in the sauce, remember?) and served some slices alongside the short ribs.
Voila, short rib and foie gras caldereta. Deathly rich and meaty for sure.
Foie on the side, foie in the sauce
The ribs were incredibly tender as expected after braising for three hours. The richness of the foie gras was not lost amidst the spicy tomato sauce. The flavor of foie gras can't be described unless you've had it before, but I like to think it's akin to meat-flavored butter, or maybe butter-flavored meat, but way better.
And that sauce! It was unbelievably rich with duck liver, but still had some spiciness from the pepper flakes, and sweetness from the carrots--without overpowering the wonderful tomato base. And best of all, it was still an undeniably comforting Caldereta--fancy pants or not. Even after all the short ribs were consumed, there was still so much of that luxurious sauce that I simply ate it with some rice the next day.
This little experiment was among the best calderetas I've enjoyed, but something I probably won't make again considering the cost (although I do have one more can at my disposal, hmmm). And it was indeed an untraditional pairing to foie gras that I'm sure is making some French dude curse me as he reads this (je suis désolé, my man).