I have great pleasure in introducing you to my friend, Kathryn Occhipinti, an incredibly talented lady. Kathryn works as a doctor of radiology in Chicago. She is multilingual and has used her skills to write language books.
Kathryn’s vision to develop an easy method to learn Italian was realised in the publication of Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases. With the help of Nada Sneige Fulihan, a French teacher in the US, she has used the same formula with French. Conversational French for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases was published last year – and I think it’s a terrific guide.
When Kathryn is not treating patients and writing books, she loves to cook. Today I have asked her to share a recipe I’m dying to try. Once you’ve read her account, I’m pretty sure you will too.
First, before all else, a huge “Mille mercis!” to Beth for letting me share her blogging space. We “met” through Twitter, where I discovered her “Fat Dogs and French Estates” series and quickly became a huge fan. As I’m sure the readers of this blog know, Beth’s wit and perspective, along with a touch of exaggeration, yields hilarious results. I laughed out loud while reading every chapter and can honestly say it was the most enjoyable book I have read in years.
With the above in mind, I was thrilled when Beth asked me to share a favorite French recipe for her blog. When my children were young, I decided I would do my best to be a good home cook. I had already learned classic Italian dishes from my mother. But, I turned to French methods to find out how to make “the best” omelette, roast chicken, beef stew, and vegetables (vegetables that my children would actually want to eat). To my surprise, I found that the “best” method was often not as time-consuming or difficult as I had imagined it would be.
Take a French classic, for instance, like Roast Duck a l’Orange. The name conjures up a stern male chef dressed in a perfectly starched, white uniform with a very tall chef’s hat standing in the middle of a gleaming kitchen and barking orders to his staff. A dish for special occasions to be enjoyed in a white-tablecloth restaurant.
Over the years, I have come across a simple method to make roast duck in a casserole pot, originally from Julia Child, I am not ashamed to admit. Cooking duck in a casserole, “à la poêle” stir-fried on the stove-top and then finished in the oven is a simple, classic method and has certainly been a mainstay for me for many years now. It can be served simply, with a gravy made from deglazing the pan with wine, and the addition of potatoes for the presentation.
For this past New Year’s Day family dinner, I browned my duck and tucked it into its pot, and while it was roasting (it really needs virtually no attention at all with this method, trust me), I decided to make a cherry sauce with the extra time on my hands. (I didn’t have any oranges on hand but I did have dried Montmorency cherries, and cherry sauce is a favorite.) The cherry sauce did take up some time and a bit of effort, but was well worth both in my opinion. A few boiled potatoes for garnish and “Viola!” we had a special New Year’s Day dinner that was “enjoyed by all.”
I have a short video clip that I took with my phone propped up by the stove and a time-lapse photography App. Not professionally done, of course, but it gives one the idea of how making the dish should go. I am delighted to be able share my recipe and short video today. For more of my practical French cooking, please visit me on Instagram at Conversationalitalian.french or on my Facebook page, Stella Lucente French. Bon appétit!
Casserole Roasted Duck
Le Creuset Casserole Pot (Size: 7 ¼ lbs. or 6.7L)
1 whole duckling, about 5-6 lbs.
4 Tb. Bacon Fat or 2 Tb. olive oil and 2 Tb. butter
Herbs: Tie together fresh parsley, sprigs of thyme, bay leaf
*Optional: Par-boiled turnips
Preheat oven 325° with shelf on the lower middle rack.
Prepare the Duck:
Prick the skin of the duck all over (so the fat will render more easily). Clip the wings and reserve tips.
Tie the legs together so they rest above the cavity with a bit of kitchen twine. (Truss the duck. If you need help with this, check out this simple video by Jacques Pépin.)
Brown the Duck:
- Melt the bacon fat or heat the olive oil/butter in the casserole pot.
- Add the duck on its back. Then turn onto each side for a minute or two with two large spoons, until it has lightly browned on all sides.
- Remove duck and pour out browning fat.
- Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper and return to pot, breast side up.
- Place the herbs tied in twine or in cheesecloth over the duck breast.
- Reheat on stovetop briefly until duck is sizzling.
Cook the Duck in the Oven:
- Cover the casserole pot and cook the duck in the preheated oven until done. No need to baste!
- Estimated cooking time 1 hour and 30-40 minutes. The duck will not brown further, but should maintain its shape nicely. Always test if the duck has cooked through by making a small incision between the thigh and body. Juices should be from light pink to clear yellow.
- Remove duck from pot to deglaze pot.
- Return duck to pot to keep warm in oven under low heat while finishing sauce.
To serve: remove trussing from duck and set on platter. Cover in a bit of sauce and top with cherries.
*Optional: Remove roasting fat after 60 minutes and add good French yellow turnips that have been peeled, diced, and par boiled in salted water for 5 minutes for a traditional French accompaniment. In this case, you will need to baste the turnips occasionally as they cook.
Montmorency Cherry Sauce
*Note: You will need to prepare the duck stock and cherries before making the brown sauce base. Then, right after the duck has finished cooking, deglaze the casserole pot and finish the sauce.
Prepare the duck stock:
Put 2-3 Tb. of butter into a small pot and brown wingtips, neck and gizzards of duck, 1 small onion sliced, 1 carrot chopped. Add fresh parsley and thyme and a small piece of bay leaf and enough chicken stock to cover. Should reduce to 2 cups duck stock after 2 hours.
For 7 oz. package. unsweetened, dried Montmorency Cherries: Partially reconstitute in water about 1 hour. For traditional sauce, use fresh or frozen cherries. Then add 1 Tb. lemon juice, 3 Tb. port wine, and 5 Tb. sugar and let soak for 30 minutes or more. (The entire package of cherries will provide extra cherries to pass around along with the gravy.)
How to Make the sauce
Prepare the brown sauce base:
Dissolve 2 Tb. arrowroot or cornstarch into 3 Tb. port and set aside. Put into a 4 cup saucepan: 3 Tb. sugar and ¼ cup red wine vinegar. Boil over moderately high heat until a brown syrup forms. Pour in ½ cup of duck stock and after it has dissolved, the remainder of the stock (2 cups total). Then add the starch/port mixture. Cook over medium heat until sauce is simmering and has thickened.
Deglaze the casserole pot and add to the sauce base:
When the duck has finished cooking, pour off as much fat from casserole pan as possible. Add ½ cup port and boil, scraping up any roasting juices and bits to deglaze until you have about ¼ cup. left. Add to the sauce base.
Add the cherries and finish the sauce:
Add the prepared cherries to the sauce and heat briefly. If using fresh cherries, heating too long will cause them to shrivel, but this is not a concern with dried cherries. Remove cherries and spread over the plated duck.
Finish sauce by boiling briefly to thicken. Add salt and pinch of pepper to taste. Off heat, add additional 2 Tb. of butter.
Pour a bit of the sauce over the duck and put the rest into a gravy bowl and serve along with the remaining cherries.
*Adapted from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume One)” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, Updated edition, 1983.