IMG_0847.JPGA lovely guest list with our standard-bearer guests Bruno and Astrid, and this time accompanied by our niece Ella and her fiancé Daniel. The guest of honor was our brother-in-law Jonathan whose birthday was that week, and somehow I was cajoled once again into doing French (twist my arm, go ahead…twist it some more….yesssssss).

Duck breast was the main, and while I have more or less mastered the cooking of duck breast, the application of sauces is still fun, exploratory territory. I have used figs, blueberries, and other fruits to accentuate the duck breast flavors, I decided on duck a l’orange and it was an abysmal failure.

To truly get the flavor of the orange, syrupy glaze, it would require a good deal of work, involving doing duck confit a day or two before, saving the broth, and working from there. I utilized the simpler version, and the marinade of orange juice, sugar, and julienned orange zest, alas, I failed to provide enough time for. The resulting quick sauce was very immaterial, alas, and the sauce simply wasn’t impressive. I wasn’t overly bummed out as the duck breasts were cooked to a delicious, simple perfection, delicately pink and suitably charred on the unctuous skin side.

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I had no time to make any homemade terrine de fois gras, alas, but if you have the inclination and the available credit, you can buy fois gras here from a New York location, since California in its infinite idiocy has determined that gavage, the method of funnels down the neck of geese and ducks to fatten them up is now considered cruel and unusual and inhumane.

Tell that to the ducks and geese who run toward their stewards when the funnel appears ready to gulp down the feed being offered, so now…only in New York can you buy this delicacy. Anyway, in place of this I bought some prepared fois gras de terrine with pork liver for $8 to accompany the St Andre and Gres d’Alsace cheeses I brought to the table as appetizers.

Not to sit on my laurels, I also prepared herbed olives with an herb mixture of fresh bay leaf, fennel, coriander, thyme, rosemary…and peppercorns. Very nice and simple. And naturellement, I also made gougeres earlier that day. Those little cheesy puffs are always a big hit,

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My intention was to make a Pommes Anna dish, and even though I bolstered the dish with some mustard seeds sautéed in butter as well as a swath of Dijon prepared mustard, it came out roughly in a close enough timeframe to be served with the rest of the meal, though a bit too close to room temperature to my tastes. Note that to roast the potatoes I chose to use my largest paellera, a Spanish cooking utensil that is typically used for making paella–the paellera.

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While the failed orange sauce was gently simmering, I started on the haricot Verts with pancetta. I had taken the forethought to have (is that good English?) prepped the green beans earlier by cooking them to the crisp stage in a pot of salted water so all that it took was a quick sautée of the pancetta and warming of the green beans. A nice, crispy vegetable balance to the potatoes and the duck.

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Still, dessert was called for and, if nothing else, my desserts are becoming noted in our small circle. Since Jonathan saw to mention how much he enjoyed panna cotta and since I’d never made that dish before, it was time to push my wife’s envelope even more by one more untested dish. I made a mango panna cotta which was mildly sweet and held up in texture very well. It occurred to me that having a nice counterpoint of a crisp cookie would work nicely, so I made a couple of batches of spicy ginger cookies. I have always had issues with cookies for some reason, that bastion of dessert making that even the smallest of children can master in minutes yet has consistently eluded me, often resulting in pancake cookies (too much butter) or savory (god knows what went into the batch that wasn’t sugar). Still, this time around, the cookies were described as ‘delicate, crispy, and perfect’. Huh. Thanks all around– I am a poor judge of cookie success.

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Overall, it would seem that I managed through skill and luck and generous friends and family’s opinion to have pulled it off. But seriously…much as I enjoy French cuisine, I’m ready now to move on to another cuisine for our next dinner party.

As Thanksgiving is in the offing, new possibilities are engendered. I want to switch things around a good deal if I do end up cooking a Magnum opus meal, but only if guests B&A choose to attend. If they don’t, it’s not a problem–I’ll simply put together…something for the wife and I. It’s no biggie, but I like cooking for people– the more the more joyous.

We will see.

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