My all time favorite movie, no exaggeration, is The Lion in Winter with Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn and Anthony Hopkins. I had to replace one VHS because I watched this movie so many times that it was just plain, worn out. I also own the DVD. The action takes place in Chinon, France at the Christmas court of the English King, Henry II. Eleanor of Aquitaine, his queen, has been temporarily released from prison for the occasion and their sons Richard, John and Geoffrey are in attendance with the young King of France, Phillip II. The bone of contention, other than the fact that King Henry chooses to “dungeon up” his queen, is who will succeed Henry; Eleanor wants Richard the Lionheart and Henry wants John. Queen of England and Duchess of Aquitaine, Eleanor possesses the Aquitaine, one of the richest provinces in France, coveted by Henry for his chosen successor John. This movie is a masterpiece of deception, treachery and gamesmanship. I think I’ll watch it again tonight! Anyway, the magret de canard or duck breast.
I poached this recipe from the Aquitaine tourism site http://www.tourisme-aquitaine.fr/fr/tourisme_aquitaine,148,m1_CF2AD95F,magret,canard.html and after having made and tasted this marvelous dish, I think what Eleanor and Henry were really fighting over was access to unparalleled cuisine. Must buy a cookbook from the Aquitaine!
The recipe is not difficult but it is fiddly. First thing you’ll want to do is put the magret in it’s marinade for 1-2 hours. Then make the balsamic vinegar reduction. Easy peasy. If it hardens a little before you are ready to serve, you just reheat for a few seconds and it’s good to go.
Then you’ll want to make a confit of the onions ( saute a long time in butter) and set aside to be rewarmed before serving.
Now the beautiful apples. I chose 1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow. It’s up to you but cook them in butter and sugar until they are lightly browned. You can also set these aside for reheating before serving. The only thing left is to sear the magret, pour the wine and enjoy!
Magret de Canard a l’Aquitaine
1 uncooked magret de canard
3 packages of sucre vanille( if you can’t find this in a gourmet store, you can make your own http://artofthehome.com/articles/homemade-vanilla-sugar-sucre-vanille-for-baking )
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, plus 2 tbsp
6 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper
3 apples, cored and cut into 8 pieces each
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
Score the magret on both sides in a diamond pattern, sprinkle with 1 package of sucre vanille, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
In a sauce pan, boil 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1 package of sucre vanille and 1/2 tsp of black pepper until the liquid is reduced by half. Set aside.
Saute the onions in 3 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper on a low flame for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and remaining package of sucre vanille on the apples and brown in 3 tablespoons of butter. Set aside.
Sear the magret de canard on the fat side first for 5 minutes, remove the accumulated fat, turn and cook on the other side for 8 minutes. Reheat the vinegar reduction, the apples and onions, slice the magret and serve. Serves 2 generously.
Wine suggestion: Morey-Saint-Denis