Duck a l'Orange

Today I cried over cheese.  I started crying when I realized that I might not be able to find any cheese store open during lunch hours.  Throughout the morning, I had mentally planned my lunch down to a tee:  a green salad with a delicious mustard vinaigrette that is typically served at french brasseries, topped with slices of smoked ham (also very typical of french brasserie salads), and of course, a beautiful cheese plate that would be filled with chevres, cantals, comtes, and nameless other varieties that I planned on buying and promptly ingesting around noontime. 

But horror of all horrors, the first cheese shop, or "fromagerie," that I walked to was closed.  I brushed it off, thinking it might be a fluke; but when the next two fromageries I walked to were also closed, I started to panick - how did I not know that most fromageries are closed during lunch time? Would I be able to find cheese?  I then started to shed tears, as I made my way to the last place I knew would sell gourmet, cheese-shop quality cheese: La Grande Epicerie at Le Bon Marche. As soon as I started ordering, my stomach stopped convulsing and my mind relaxed - I knew I would be able to create the cheese plate that had existed in mind for the past 5 hours.   

I don't know if it's just me, but I think there's something feverish in regards to the food in Paris.  I see it in my classmates too: eating has taken on an art form.  It is no longer about filling your stomach and providing the body with necessary energy - food is something to be savored, delighted upon, with every bite a new sensation should burst in your mouth and in your mind.  Smoked sausage, cream sauces, 468 varieties of cheese, fresh baguettes, and of course, the amazing quality of meat that is available everywhere.  Paris is food heaven; and I've come to learn today that it may have its price - my body and my mind have come to expect a certain quality and style of eating, and the consequences of disappointing my voracious appetite are severe. 

Alas, on a happier note, I am working away with new French recipes, the latest of which is duck a l'orange.  I love duck breast; I love when it is sliced evenly into small strips of lean duck that is surrounded by a layer of fat, almost like a halo.  Pierce the breast with a knife, place a morcel on your tongue, and what you will be tasting is a tender, salty, and slightly chewy bit of meat that just about requires a deep sigh after eating.  Duck a l'orange is a french classic, and I've learned tonight that it is also extremely straightforward and easy.  I've pared it down to be made for one person, and there are no obscure ingredients. 

It takes about one hour to put together from start to finish, so it's very doable at any time during the week.

Duck a l'Orange - serves 1

3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
2 oranges
1 very small shallot, chopped
1 duck breast, about 8 ounces
1/2 cup chicken broth
a knob of butter

1.  Grate one orange and set aside the grated peels; cut it in half.  Squeeze half of the orange to get as much juice from it as possible.  Remove the other half of all of the white parts, and cut it open to remove the segments; place the segments aside on a plate.  Cut the second orange in half, squeeze out all of the juice you can, and add it the juice of the first orange.

2.  In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar over medium-high heat.  Increase the heat, and boil until the liquid has become very thick and dark brown in color, about 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and add sherry vineger (be warned, the mixture will bubble vigorously).  Add orange juice and shallots, and boil until reduced in half.  Add the chicken broth, and boil until reduced again in half, about 12-15 minutes (the sauce should be thick in consistency).  Set aside.

3.  Using a small knife, cut little X's into the skin of the duck, being careful not to pierce the breast.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Heat a 12' skillet over medium-high heat, and cook duck, skin side down, until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes.  Turn over and cook until desired doneness, about 12 minutes for medium-rare.

4.  Meanwhile, return the sauce to low heat, add butter and half of grated orange peel, and stir until butter is just combined.  Add orange segments, then remove from heat.

5.  Slice duck breasts cross-wise on the diagonal and arrange on a plate.  Set orange segments and sauce alongside the duck, pouring any remaining sauce directly over the duck.

Merci a tous!


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