Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Duck Breast with Orange Rose Madeira Sauce

Miniature of the "Ménagier de Paris", 15th century

While thinking about an appropriate dish to serve for Valentine’s Day, I came upon a wonderful recipe with the soul of a rose in its sauce. It comes from one of the earliest cookbooks, The Goodman of Paris (Le Menagier de Paris) from 1393 that was written by an older husband for his young wife. In it are remarkably thorough lessons on keeping house, being a good wife and hostess, gardening and even sexual advice as well as fine recipes (more like suggestions since ingredients and instructions are loosely provided). Janet Hinson translates the passage:

"Item: partridge must be plucked dry, and cut off the claws and head, put in boiling water, then stick with venison if you have any, or bacon, and eat with fine salt, or in cold water and rose water and a little wine, or in three parts rose water, orange juice and wine, the forth part."

Menagier de Paris, 15th C Copy, Lancelots.ex

I thought about this for a spell and decided to mix it up a little and use duck, another fowl with an affinity for oranges.

Both Delmonico's chef Ranhoffer (I wrote about him here) and Antoine Careme use Sauce Bigarade for their duck, a bitter orange sauce that was traditionally made with a floury espangnole sauce to thicken it ( I included the recipe for bigarade for you to see the old style sauce). I decided I wanted it a little brighter and then added a bit of rose absolute to honor Le Menagier recipe and Valentine's Day. Think of it as distilling 500 years of cooking!

James Auduban, 1821-34

And then we come to the duck. While researching antique American menus, I found canvasback duck appeared frequently as the sine qua non of duck… often costing twice as much as other things on a menu (that and terrapin). I really wanted to use this duck. Further digging found some interesting facts.

William Vinje for USFWS

The name of the lovely creature in Latin, Aythya valisineria, is based on its eating habits… it loves wild celery, Vallisneria Americana which is what gave it its extraordinary flavor (perhaps Heston Blumenthal thought of this when he was feeding his Christmas goose fennel pollen!). What I also didn’t know is that its popularity nearly drove it to extinction.

An article from an 1890 NYT tells the story of the dilemma and the efforts of sportsmen to reverse the trend and save them for future generations. I was amazed that such thinking goes back so far. Thanks to them, however, sportsmen today can still bring a few of them home from hunts and taste their delicious meat… not as delicious as before however since the wild celery is nearly gone… a victim of encroaching civilization on its habitats.

Hank at Honest Food has tasted a west coast canvasback and raves about its flavor in his wonderful blog. I have never had the pleasure but hope one day to have a morsel -- just not this time.
I decided to use a lovely magret du canard from a moulard duck, at the suggestion of Hank via the lovely purveyors D’Artagnan (that also happen to be neighbors of mine!)

I do not have words to describe the dish... it was that good... swoon good, to die for good. The caramel with the reduced orange and madeira and the rose... you will think you have entered sauce heaven!!!

Duck with Orange Rose Madeira Sauce and Gingered Sweet Potatoes on Radicchio
for 2-4

2 duck breasts (12 oz or more muskovy or the lighter 8 oz moulard)*****
salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

With a sharp knife score the fat of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat Place the duck breasts, fat side down, in the skillet to render the fat, about 6 minutes. Turn the duck breasts over and sear for 1 minute. Turn the fat side down again and place the skillet into the oven to roast for 7 minutes, until breasts are medium rare. Rest them for 5 minutes then slice.

***** Duck breasts can come in smaller sizes than the hefty muskovy. If you are using a smaller size (8 oz) only roast in the skillet in the oven for 4-5 minutes.

**This recipe for the duck breast comes from the food network. It had been in my files and I did not know who to attribute it to. now I do.

Blood Orange Rose Madeira Sauce

2 Blood Oranges (you can of course use regular oranges) 

1/4 c sugar (I use Whole Food's Organic)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 c Charleston Sercial Special Madeira
1T 1922 D'Oliveira Bual (optional)
2 Drops Rose Absolute or 2 t. rosewater or to taste

1 shallot, finely chopped 

1 sprig of marjoram if you have it, thyme if you do not 

1 c chicken stock
2 T unsalted chilled butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Zest one orange. Blanch for 5 minutes in boiling water, drain and set aside. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and set aside. Dissolve the sugar in a heavy pan over moderate heat and cook to a deep caramel. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour in the vinegar.

Stir in the madeira and return the pan to the heat. Dissolve the sugar, add the shallots and marjoram, then bring the madeira to a good simmer. Reduce to about 1/2 of what it was, then pour in the stock and 3/4 of the orange juice. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and reduce by half. Strain through a fine sieve and discard the shallots and marjoram.

Start whisking in the butter, a piece at a time, then stir in the orange zest. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the lemon and reserved orange juice to taste (the sauce is sweet and the juices will brighten it). Add the rose absolute (or rosewater) and old madeira at this point... do not overheat. Slice your duck and pour the sauce over the slices.

Thanks to Gordon for inspiration for this!

Sweet Potatoes with ginger and lime for 2 to 4

1 large sweet potato
1 t. grated ginger
zest of 1 lime and juice of 1/2 the lime
4 T cream
1/4 t salt
Cook the sweet potatoes till tender then rice them. Add the rest of the ingredients then whip.
For those of you who want to try it old school:

Sauce bigarade: Antonin Careme's recipe:

1 bigarade orange (or a bitter orange).
1.5 dl of finished espagnole sauce*.
20g butter.
a pinch of cracked pepper.

Cut the zest of the orange making sure that there are no white bits on it. Blanch them briefly. Press the orange.

In a thick bottom pot, place the orange zests and the juice and reduce by half.
Add the espagnole sauce and and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Skim from time to time. Add the cracked pepper and strain through a fine chinois.

Just before serving, whisk in the butter

Follow Me on Pinterest


Fresh Local and Best said...

This is a wonderful duck recipe. Thank you so much for sharing such descriptive history of ducks.

Stella said...

Hi, this is a great post. I love duck, and I can imagine that back in the day when folks ate gamier meat that they might have taken it a bit too far (extinction). You know, you are very romantic for being from Jersey City! I guess I'm stereotyping now though, and that is never good (I'm smiling). Anyway, good post as usual.

Deana Sidney said...

Fresh Local and Best> It is really good... glad you enjoyed the history!
Stella> I've only been a JC girl for a year... NYC girl since college which
was a long time ago. NY can be a very romantic place!!! Glad you liked the duck.

La Table De Nana said...

You have such informative imaginative and beautiful posts..How neat that the duck purveyor is your neighbor..I clicked on the link:)

Bravo on your uniqueness:)Happy Valentine's day~ This dish seems very romantic! Beautifully presented also..

Tasty Trix said...

What an incredible sounding sauce, and so creative using your rose absolute! As always, this was a well researched, informative, and fun read. Love it, love, love it!! You rule.

Anonymous said...

An exquisite meal and excellent information! The sauce for the duck is incredible and I love the presentation of the sweet potatoes!

Sarah said...

There is that madeira and rose absolut again! When I get settled I am definitely buying the tasting package of absoluts. I love duck breast.

Deana Sidney said...

Table de la Nana> Playing with food is so much fun...and this is romantic since the sauce is so sensual.
Trix> I am just single minded!!! I have been given these amazing products and only have to come up with recipes for them, how cool is that!!
5 Star Foodie> Thanks, I had the pastry tip from the cupcakes and thought mmmm, sweet potatoes... just like they used to do it!
All ourFIngers in the Pie> I am on a kick, aren't I? It would make me so happy if you tried the absolutes... they are so good. I really can't say enough about this sauce... over the top great.

Zurin said...

Soul of a rose...that sounds haunting and lusious!u made such a beautiful dish...teh colours are incredible..! beautiful post

Rita said...

What a wonderful menu to serve for Valentines supper. I have never cooked duck but your recipe is tempting!thank you.

Barbara said...

(Please don't tell) but when I lived in Michigan, my family had a small hunting lodge on Saginaw Bay. I was brought up with duck and pheasant hunting and spent many a cold day walking in the woods or sitting in a blind. Of course that meant I had access to both for my family and for entertaining. I always made a lovely currant sauce for my duck and wish I had your recipe back then! I have used D’Artagnan and am a faithful reader of Hank's blog (It's wonderful,isn't it?).
Will copy your lovely Blood Orange Rose Madeira Sauce and make it at the first opportunity! Happy Valentine's Day, Deana!

xinex said...

This looks so good and so special!...Christine

Deana Sidney said...

Barbara> Lovely Barbara how sweet you are... that's a good story... I was just the opposite... threw a tantrum when my father went out hunting (it was Bambi). I love currants in anything... perhaps you can share that with me??
Hank was very generous with info on my canvasback fascination... and he makes the coolest things. Happy Valentines to you!!
Xinex> Thanks Christine, it is special... but good for a special day!!

Ju (The Little Teochew) said...

How do you do it?? The rest of us just cook and blog! But you ... you do so much more. Thank you for a beautiful post. The dish is EXQUISITE.

Deana Sidney said...

Ju> Most kind... I love stories. I tell stories with objects when I do movies.. now I'm trying to find my voice writing and making food... baby steps but so much fun!!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your recipes, for your photos, for the atmosphere I find in your blog, I love it
And the sauce bigarrade is so extraordinary !!!
Have a good valentine's day

Rettabug said...

This post is why I love blogging so much!

I'm not sure how you found my blog, Deana, but I came back here to return the compliment & discovered a whole new world!

I had to go look up several unfamiliar things & thus, learned a great deal by my visit. I didn't know a single thing about Ranhoffer and Antoine Careme, nor Sauce Bigarde or why the word espangnole was used. I had a vague idea of what terrapin was but looked it up to make sure.

I'd also never heard about the canvasback duck eating celery before! I didn't know that Heston Blumenthal fed his Christmas goose fennel pollen, either.

Its nice to know that conservationism was taken seriously way back in 1890.

Now I must go back & follow your links & hopefully will stumble across even more amazing bits of information...thank you for sharing them & your delicious looking recipe.
Thank you, too, for your kind words about my scones & jam.


E said...

That looks so decadently delicious!

Deana Sidney said...

Rettabug> I am so pleased that you were driven to explore further... it happens to me all the time... like ripples in a pond I keep navigating the layers as one fact leads to another and suddenly an hour is gone!!!I I should have said about Ranhoffer... but I did 2 posts about him... and Careme... well I'm going to do a post about him (the first Celebrity chef!!!) in the near future. I always learn alot on these posts too! Notes like yours really mean a lot.
E> If you skip the's not too decadent??@!!!

Joy Tilton said...

Such a beautiful sauce and so perfect for a Valentine meal! Your blog is pure eye candy, come visit GrannyMountain when you have time...

Mary Bergfeld said...

I love this post! I'm leaving knowing far more than when I came in. I'll be back often. You have a wonderful blog. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

Winchester Manor said...

What a delightful and informing post! Thank you for the wonderful recipe.

Happy Valentine's! Wishing you a day filled with love.


Cathy said...

What a lovely, informative post. The duck with that most delectable sauce would make any occasiona very special.

Deana Sidney said...

Joycee> it's a long time since i've been eye candy... good my blog can be... I loved visiting yours for that wonderful story!!!
Mary> I always know more at the end of writing a post than I did going in... sometimes a lot more. I'm trying to write about things that I've always wanted to try... or love and want to share.
French Charming> Thanks for the day filled with love... must remind my fella to do his best!!
Cathy> it is a great sauce... but you can make it easily !

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That must be a wonderful dish! Those flavors go well together. Divine!



Gemma said...

I like your orange sauce a lot. I think it would be suitable to many other meat recipes.
It looks so heavenly!

Amanda said...

Stunning. Just amazing. Well done!

Deana Sidney said...

Rosa's yummy yums> they do... it is wonderful!
Gemma> coming from you a great compliment..your Catalan recipes are always so interesting
Amanda> Thanks for stopping by... glad you like it!

Rhondi said...

What an elegant dinner for Valentines Day!

Anonymous said...

I love the recipe and the book sounds just adorable. I recently received a Mrs Beetons from 1988 and it is incredible to read about the housekeeping and what was expected of the 'lady of the house'. I am on the search now for more older cook books

Deana Sidney said...

Rhondi> it really was elegant... and my fella loved the sauce!
peasepudding> Mrs Beeton was the last word in cooking in the mid 19th C (although she died before hitting 30) She taught generations of homemakers what to do with good English common sense... it's great you have one... I love old cookbooks... I learn so much from them!

Carolyn Jung said...

That blood orange sauce sounds divine. I think I'd want to put it on just about everything.

The Cooking Photographer said...

I adore this post. Wow. What I wouldn't give to be able to read through "The Goodman of Paris". I think I just traveled back several hundred years.

2 Stews said...

I can't wait to make this. I love duck and eat it in restaurants, but never make it. I think I will now. The recipe just sounds so flavorful with the varied ingredients. And those sweet potatoes with ginger and lime....oh my!

Thanks, Deana!


LunaCafe said...

What a divinely inspired dish! Blood orange, Madeira, rosewater, and duck. Gorgeous. And thank you for the fascinating history. Also, I didn't know that Absolute makes a rose flavored vodka. I love the flavor of rose petals in so many dishes. Bravo! ...Susan

Megan @ FeastingonArt said...

Oh my goodness yum!!! I would have been a very happy lady if I had this for dinner on Valentine's Day!

I just posted a recipe contest on my blog, I really hope you participate - I know you will make something really creative!

pam said...

I don't know what I like most...the history lesson or the wonderful recipe!

Deana Sidney said...

Carolyn>you can use it on chicken too!
Cooking Photographer>It's a fun book.. some of the instructions to the young wife will make you mad!
2 stews> it couldn't be easier... the duck cooking method is really simple and easy and the sauce can be made ahead. The sweet potatoes are a breeze to make... I add more ginger sometimes to spice them up!
Lunacafe> rose absolute isn't the vodka, although it's a great idea! It is a super concentrated rose essence that you can cook with or wear as perfume... either way it's great.
Megan> I was a happy lady... it was a great VD dinner...even though we had it the night before!
Pam> I hope both... they are such pretty birds...I'm sort of glad I didn't find one... although the celery taste is tantalizing!!!