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I recently spent a month in the southwest of France, most of it in the Dordogne. This region, (also called Perigord) surrounding the Dordogne river, is lush with meadows, forests and some vineyards. Included in the landscape are castles on cliffsides, prehistoric painted caves, formal gardens and a countryside dotted with picturesque villages. However, to me, this area will forever be the “land of the duck.” In one month, I'm sure I ate more duck than I’ve eaten in my entire lifetime. I even had it for breakfast! At a morning outdoor market several foie gras vendors invited me to sample their delicacies. What kind of visitor would I be to decline? Foie gras and breakfast had never before entered my mind, but I had to try it. Those little slabs of foie gras on crusty French baguette cubes were one of the best breakfasts ever.
France is famous for its duck dishes. You will find Magret de Canard (duck breast) or Cuisse de Canard also known as Confit de Canard (duck leg slow cooked and preserved in duck fat). Tournedos Rossini, the classic French dish of filet mignon topped with a slab of foie gras and served in a Sauce Perigueux (truffle sauce — yes, Perigord is also famous for its truffles) and topped with shaved black truffles–just in case it wasn't already rich enough. These duck dishes you can find throughout France, but in the Dordogne you find them and so many others. Duck is as common to the Dordogne people as a chicken breast is to a Californian.
In addition to the beef tournedos, just as popular are Tournedos de Magret. Two slices of duck breast strung together to make the round "tournedos" form, then a slice of foie gras is placed in the center. The tournedos are pan fried and served in the same rich truffle sauce. There are Aiguilettes (duck breast tenders), usually cooked to rare and served with a cream sauce. The dish above is a salad of gesiers (duck gizzards). The gizzards are also confit in duck fat. If you’d like more variety of duck in your salad, then try a Salade Perigourdine. It has gesiers, slices of either smoked or dried duck breast and topped with a fat slab of foie gras. Along with the various parts of the duck and cooking preparations, there are the numerous types of foie gras – cuit, mi-cuit, cru, entier, bloc, pate, mousse. Like I said, I was in the land of the duck.
After a month, I had even become somewhat of a duck snob. At a wine festival where they served street fare versions of regional food (yes, foie gras as street food), I was nibbling on an assortment of duck and very disappointed in the quality of the foie gras. It was a bit grainy. A French woman asked me where I purchased the plate. I told her, warning her that the foie gras wasn’t very good. She frowned and explained that it was more likely that I was not in the habit of eating foie gras. I smiled and thought, “Lady, what do you think I’ve been eating for the last month?!” Compared to her life-long consumption of it, she was probably right.
Duck isn't exactly a staple in California. Except for fine dining restaurants and some ethnic markets, it's nearly impossible to find. And, you certainly don't see confit duck gizzards or jars of duck fat in the supermarkets. I'm glad I got to try all of the duck variations during my visit. I would suggest any and all of them for your next visit to Dordogne.
Assiette Perigourdine (Assortment of Duck)
Magret de Canard (Duck Breast)
Aiguillettes (Duck Breast Tenders)
Confit de Canard and Foie Gras at the Market
While traveling what food/dish did you find that was so common in that country and so rare in yours? Which Dordogne duck dish sounds most appealing to you?
This post is part of WanderFood Wednesdays – check out the other wandering foodies that blog.
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