Duck + Beer + Grapes


Duck cooked with beer and grapes—and garnished with sliced tomatoes.

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)

SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

4- to 4-1/2 pound duck

1 onion

6 tablespoons butter

10 ounces beer (presumably lager)

Bouquet garni (thyme, bay leaf, parsley)

1 large bunch seedless grapes (presumably green)

Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

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.

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8 comments on “Duck + Beer + Grapes

  1. home before dark says:

    I would expect a young woman to like duck if her eyes light up when she sees fois gras. I agree that hot grapes can be odd, and bit hard to eat, with all that squishy round thing going on. I think Guinness not such a bad choice for duck, actually. By the way, learning to cook rice properly is harder than it would seem.

  2. Albert Premier says:

    Dear Aesthete Cooks,
    I recommend cutting up the duck in serving pieces before cooking, rather than after. In this way you have more control over the way you want the meat done.Especialy with wild ducks the cookingtime requiered varies between the breast & the tight parts. By the way, you didn’t mention if you used a wild duck or a tame one. It does make a difference!! When using grapes in hot savoury dishes I always peel them. A hell of a job, I know, but worth the trouble since you get rid of the slightly astringent quality of the skins & also the taste of the grapes communicates itself better to the dish. I also half them, it facilitates seeding. Seedles grapes are hard to come by in continental Europe. Though certainly stout will have been ok, Madame la Contesse Mapie will certainly have used lager. Please take note of the fact that beer in the US is considerable sweeter than in Europe, even Heineken puts more sugar in their beer for the US market.
    Highest regards,
    Albert Premier.

    • I learn so much from you, Albert! The duck was not wild, and my husband didn’t cut it up because he was pressed for time. Our daughter tends to fall asleep around 8pm, so dinner is often a bit rushed to accommodate the demands of Morpheus. And thank you so much for the information about beer and its relative sweetness. We have quite a bit of Ommegang beer in the cellar, which we’re planning to use in a chili someday.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Yay for Coraline! I mean Catherine. (Your daughter is reminding a bit of Neil Gaiman’s heroine, Coraline, as she samples the dishes you prepare. To quote a disgusted Coraline, ” Daddy, you’ve made a recipe again.”) So glad the duck was a hit!

    And to follow up “home before dark’s” comment, I always had trouble with rice, but it really is a snap if you follow this basic technique: Melt 2 tbs. butter and add 1 cup rice. Saute a minute or two; add 1 1/2 cup water (or maybe chicken stock). Stir. Add 1 bayleaf and a little salt. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook undisturbed for 17 minutes (I will slap your hands if you lift the cover!) Allow rice to stand for at least five minutes. Fluff and serve. I usually use basmati or texmati.

    Charlotte

  4. littleaugury says:

    Here I must admit I think like a child completely shun duck- for me duck is Ping, one of my favourite childhood stories, hard to swallow, I just can’t help it. I could eat the grapes.

    • Oh, I had forgotten about Ping! We used to have a pet duck called Esmeralda, a native Cayuga duck, who was a greatly beloved member of our household. She was caught by one of our dogs, a blind Bernese, who mercifully didn’t kill her, just carried her around. As a result she needed to recuperate in our house, so waddled everywhere, ate tons of oatmeal, and loved being picked up. She lived with us for two years before expiring.

  5. littleaugury says:

    Esmeralda-great name. My brother had a duck name Ducky Lucky (ok he was about 3-) but when he became too large for the house DL went to live at my great granMa’s with other ducks and birds. These were country ladies-not lots of barnyard sentiment,one Sunday lunch… You get the picture. Ducky Lucky, Not so Lucky.
    read Ping.

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