Monday, March 27, 2006

Duck

Quercy (that's the old name for this part of France) is duck farming country. A friend who is writing a novel asked me for the actual duck dishes that one would expect to find on a menu here. As she suspected, duck à l'orange is more Anglo-Saxon than it is French: you get a clue when you find that many recipes for it specify marmalade rather than seville oranges. So I was happy to do a little research for her in the local restaurants.

The sweetest duck dish I found was le magret de canard au miel, duck fillets (lean duck breasts) in honey sauce. Another restaurant offered la brochette de magret de canard aux pruneaux, duck breast kebab with prune sauce. I wasn't tempted by either, but was drawn to several dishes with le confit de canard, originally the local preserved duck (brined, baked and stored under a layer of its own fat), but nowadays often just bought-in baked duck in its own juices. It's great on its own, but also inspires dishes like le cassoulet au confit de canard, cassoulet being the traditional white bean and maybe meat stew from Cathar country, South of the Lot.

Magret de canard also appears with sauces that one associates with steak, like les aiguillettes de canard au sauce poivre, tender strips of duck in peppercorn sauce, or less floridly le magret de canard au poivre. Worth a try is la brochette de magret de canard gras, sauce aux cèpes, fatty duck breast slices on a skewer with cèpe (porcini) sauce.

Smoked duck breast turns up in dishes, notably Salade Quercynoise, where it appears with gizzards, often foie gras, and of course frisée or other salad. Around here, gésiers (gizzards) and foie gras are from ducks as often as from geese. You even see kebab of duck hearts as an appetiser. Foie gras turns up in many guises, for instance assiette aux deux foies gras de canard (figues et poelé) foie gras two ways, in fig sauce and pan fried.

Wish us an escape from la grippe avaire.

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