Last night we dined on another culinary surprise from the pages of Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Cuisine de France, a 1961 classic that has been too long overlooked and out of circulation—canard à la bière aux raisins, or duck with beer and grapes.
The ingredients don’t sound exactly appetizing but trust me on this combination. Even when my husband looked in the refrigerator for some beer to use and could only come up with a couple of bottles of Guinness stout, it worked. I have a feeling Mme de Toulouse-Lautrec intended a golden lager instead of a dark Irish brew. Still it worked. Presumably the French-cookery icon intended green grapes in her recipe too, but I imagine seedless red grapes would work just as well and might be strikingly attractive.
FYI: We cooked the duck for almost an hour and 15 minutes in a classic Le Creuset French oven, only to find the bird was still a bit bloody. So it was taken off the flame, covered with the lid, and placed in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven for 15 minutes to speed things along. That did the trick.
For those of you following the reactions of our eight-year-old daughter to our culinary experiments, she actually applauded the roast fowl, saying she liked it almost as much as chicken. She thought the hot grapes were odd though.
CANARD A LA BIERE AUX RAISINS
SOURCE: La Cuisine de France by Mapie de Toulouse-Lautrec (Orion, 1961)
4- to 4-1/2 pound duck
6 tablespoons butter
10 ounces beer (presumably lager)
Bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)
1 large bunch seedless grapes (presumably green)
Salt and pepper
Prepare the duck as for roasting.
Chop the onion very fine. Heat the butter in a large pan, and when very hot, sauté the duck and onion together, turning the duck so that it will brown lightly on both sides. Add the beer and the bouquet garni and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender, basting often. When the duck is cooked, remove it from the pan and keep hot.
Remove the bouquet garni from the sauce and add the grapes. Simmer for a few moments.
Divide the duck into serving pieces. Cover with the sauce and serve with boiled rice.