One reads about meals fit for kings, but yesterday I had a hand in preparing one, and then got to sit down and eat it! How great is that? We shared the results of our labor among us: Kate, Sandra, Erika and myself, along with Sandra’s husband and Kate’s friend Alain. We got out a tablecloth and Kate’s good silver, and set the table in front of the fireplace. It was the kind of dinner to make me want to pack everything up and move to France.
I want to always remember this meal, so I will set down the menu. While I don’t think I’ll ever be so ambitious as to recreate the entire dinner, I certainly want each component again! (perhaps not likely with the wine, a special bottle the other student Sandra bought to celebrate – a 1985 Château d’Issay Margeaux that made I wish I knew enough about wine to really appreciate).
We started with oysters. Not just any oysters mind you, but Vert de Marennes from north of Bordeaux. I may have perhaps had one oyster once or twice before, I honestly don’t remember. But I see now what the fuss is about. It’s like a taste of the sea, gloriously briny and fresh and bright. We made a mignonnette sauce — finely minced shallots and red wine vinegar. (I practiced my slowly improving knife skills on the shallots.)
Next we passed around the terrine de foie gras that yours truly helped prepare earlier in the week. We bought two ducks at the market, butchered them and cooked the livers mi cuit (slowly at a low temperature) in terrines, then covered them with duck fat and let rest a few days. Amazing. Melting, smooth, creamy goodness. This was the best I’ve tried so far. I happily took seconds when the dish came back around.
Our main course was civet de canard, which we’d prepared a day or so before. We’d boiled and flamed a red wine, then braised duck magret (breast), legs, and thighs with the wine and some duck-fat sauteed veggies. The result was a mahogany-hued sauce that imbued the tender duck with a deep, rich flavor. We served it atop polenta and with a side of duck-fat roasted parnsips and apples. I’ll never overlook parsnips again.
For dessert we had our gateau de chocolat, a nearly flourless chocolate cake, with caramelized pineapple. I felt like the stuffed duck at the end of his two weeks of force feeding but it was glorious.
Today it’s crisp and cold, the sun is shining and although I have a full-on stuffy runny nose from a sinus infection, I’ll bundle up and Erika and I will dig the old bicycles out of the barn and ride to the next village.