Today I’m in Gascony, at the foot of the Pyrenees to cook a lovely local speciality ‘magret de canard’, fattened duck breast with orange sauce. In Gascony it’s all about rich stews, duck fat, foie gras, goose, magrets and confits. You’d think all this would be detrimental to health, yet the Gascon people enjoy the longest life expectancy in France! I’ve come to the little village of Monfort to dine on a health-promoting, extra fatty duck breast called the ‘magret’. These are the breasts from the fattened birds used for producing foie gras. I’m serving it with the sweet and sour orange sauce known as ‘sauce bigarade’.
Ingredients (for 2 people)
2 ‘magrets’ or regular duck breasts
500 g chopped carcass, wings etc of duck or chicken
1 or 2 tablespoons oil or duck fat
1 smallish onion, chopped
1 smallish carrot, chopped
1 smallish stick of celery, chopped
a bouquet garni of thyme, bay and parsley
30 ml red wine vinegar
30 ml white sugar
the juice of two oranges
a few drops of brandy or orange liqueur
Brown the chopped carcass over a fairly high heat. Add the vegetables and continue to colour everything. Pour in water (or stock if available) to come level with the solids and scrape the bottom of the pan to dissolve all the flavourful caramelisation. Now just cover the solids with the stock or water, put in the herbs and cook for 45 minutes then strain.
Criss-cross cuts are made in the skin and fat of the magret, care being taken not to cut into the meat. It’s given a very generous seasoning of salt and pepper and placed into a cold pan with no extra oil or fat. The pan is placed over a medium-low heat to gently colour the skin whilst rendering out most to the layer of fat. When nicely golden, turn the breast to finish it off over a high heat for a couple of minutes depending on the degree of doneness required.
For the sweet and sour orange source the first step is to prepare the mixture of caramelised sugar and vinegar called “gastrique”. Sprinkle sugar evenly into a thick bottomed pan and place the pan over high heat. At this stage, don’t be tempted to stir it, just wait for the sugar to melt and turn golden. Now pour in the wine vinegar to dissolve the caramel and stop the cooking. Give it a good stir and allow it to reduce by half. To the gastric orange juice is added and again this is allowed to reduce down until slightly syrupy. Now the stock is added and cooked gently until a sauce-like consistency is achieved. A splash of brandy or orange liqueur can also be added.
Check the duck with a meat thermometer which should register about 55 degrees centigrade or 130 Fahrenheit for medium rare, or just press it with your fingers – it should be resistant but still a little bouncy. Remove it to a warm place and let it rest for at least five minutes. Slice thickly, and serve with the sauce and a simple vegetable accompaniment.
This entry was posted in Poultry-FRANCE