Magret de Canard au Porto

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For all of the cooking I do, I rarely make forays into French cuisine. Last night, however, was an exception. I had a friend come over for dinner, and given the choice of Indian, Thai, or French, the guy chose French. For all of the cooking I do, I happen to not be entirely comfortable with French cuisine, though I whole-heartedly enjoy it. Since most of the readers of my blog cook, I thought I would share my experiences. I arranged everything very beautifully on a platter and had the table set quite nicely, but I failed to take pictures like I had planned. So, do your best to envision it!
I decided first to make mousse au chocolat for dessert, since I've made it before and I feel pretty comfortable with it. It doesn't take much prowess to melt chocolate and mix it with sugar. It did turn out better this time, however, because I took more care with the eggs. The feature of (real) chocolate mousse that makes it fluffy is beaten egg whites carefully folded into the butter-chocolate-sugar-egg yolk mixture. (Note that some poseurs mix together chocolate pudding and cool whip
and call it chocolate mousse. Impostors.) So, this time I beat the eggs together longer than last time, and as a result my mousse was much fluffier. Muito benne.
The main course was trickier. I pored over my two french cookbooks until deciding on squab, with a back-up plan for rabbit. The trusty internet, which only tells the truth, assured me that the Whole Foods in Pasadena always has a reserve of squab. I learned my lesson about blind trust and foodie blogs...
I walked away from Whole Foods with two whole breasts of duck, a small bottle of Port, a bunch of carrots and a turnip. And a T-shirt, but that was an unrelated impulse buy. It's cute though! And organic! I rallied all of my wisdom when I left the house with my favorite French cookbook, so I had back-up recipes at my fingertips when the dudes behind the meat counter turned down my several initial requests for less-than-American meat. ("No, but we have a pheasant!" Next time, I'm going to get that dang pheasant.) As an aside, I felt pressure to get an exotic game bird for my dinner, because they're contraband. When my parents go out of town, I like to be called "Contraband Kate." Pretty self-explanatory: wearing tank-tops around the house, eating smelly cheeses, and buying the meat of lesser-known fowls with little bones. My mom said to me before she left, "haven't you noticed that I don't serve anything with little bones?!" I laughed and made plans for dinner.
So T-shirt, cheap wine, and root vegetables in hand, I cooked. I roasted the carrots and turnip with two potatoes in olive oil and salt and pepper, but I don't think I got quite enough oil on them, because they tasted a little charred on the outside. Whatever, roasted veggies. On to the "Magret de Canard au Porto." Basically, I skinned the duck breasts, fed the skin to my dog, pan-seared them, put them on a bed of pan-seared golden delicious apple slices, and topped it all with a golden raisin and Port sauce. Sounds pretty good, right? Pretty easy? Pretty flawless? The thing is, magret is technically the breast of fattened duck. In America, we fear fat. We are fat, but we fear fat. In France, they laugh in the face of fat and are skinny. There have been books written on this paradox, but I think it's just one of the cruel truths of the universe: the French shower less, eat butter for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and wear the same outfit two days in a row, but they're still hotter than us. Who knows. But I digress... the duck I got was not fattened, so in pan-searing it, even with a few tablespoons of E.V.O.O., I had hardly any juices to show for it. Meaning, the apples didn't get cooked in any juices. Meaning, "deglazing" the pan yielded no extraordinary results, for there was nothing to deglaze. Meaning, I ended up with slightly charred-tasting duck to match the slightly charred-tasting vegetables. Of course I'm going to be critical of my own food- I'm sure it was pretty good. But next time? I'm just settling for the pheasant.


Chrissie said...

Je suis tres impressionee! Chapeau, Lauren!