On Being Fearless with Food & Magret de Canard Provençal (Provencal Duck Breast)

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ― Julia Child, My Life in France

I love Julia Child.

I also love Dan Aykroyd doing Julia Child. Who doesn’t? With her boundless enthusiasm and imperious voice, Julia revolutionized a generation of home cooks. Or at least the ones who watched public television and agreed that life was too short to eat canned vegetables. She paved the way for countless cookbooks, a bunch of celebrity chefs and more than a few delicious dinners. And she was fearless.
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Are you fearless when it comes to food? If not, maybe it’s time to create a culinary bucket list. Make it your year to cook and eat, maybe not dangerously, but with aplomb!

There are several lists tallying up 100 things to eat before you die floating around. These lists are not all that comprehensive just a bit of this and a bit of that from exotic delicacies to fast food. After reviewing a few, I’ve taken some of their this and that and added a few of my own. I’ve left out the Big Macs and road kill in favor of Dim Sum and moose. Then again, I suppose more than one moose ended up on the dinner table after stopping traffic. Since a moose’s stopping powers are only exceeded by steel-enforced concrete, I don’t recommend hitting one for dinner.

Of course, I couldn’t stop at 100 so I’ve got 101. My list has been influenced by my travels, love of spice and a bit of tradition. Many are on the list because I’ve tried them; others I hope to try. And a few I vow will never cross my lips. I expect I will change my mind at least a dozen times between now and forever, adding and subtracting dishes or growing the list to 201! Whether you eat out or cook them yourself, here are some of the many wonderful (and maybe a few not so wonderful) things you should try … or at least think about trying!

101 Dishes to Cook and Eat Fearlessly

1. Aloo gobi (spicy Indian cauliflower and potatoes)
2. Abalone
3. Absinthe or ouzo – best enjoyed on the beach at sunset
4. Alligator or crocodile – you choose
5. Baba Ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip)
6. Bagna Cauda (warm dipping sauce with anchovies and garlic for vegetables and crusty bread)
7. Baijiu (Chinese white lighting) – best enjoyed on a freezing winter night in front of the fire
8. Baklava or, if you prefer savory over sweet, spanakopita – you choose
9. Barbecue ribs – in a funky rib joint or the backyard on the 4th of July
10. Beans and rice – red beans, black beans, adzuki, pinto or small white beans you choose
11. Becherovka (Czech herbal liqueur) – store it in the freezer and drink it ice cold
12. Bellini (Prosecco and peach cocktail) – stick with the original recipe from Harry’s Bar in Venice
13. Wild berries straight from the bush – I pick them on my walks around Pleasant Lake
14. Homemade buttermilk biscuits
15. Black cow (root beer float)
16. Black Pudding – it’s got nothing to do with dessert
17. Borscht
18. Bouillabaisse – if you’re lucky near a beach in the south of France
19. Buffalo – that’s the big, hairy beast not the wings from upstate New York
20. Calamari – skip the marinara sauce, serve them with Lemon-Basil Aioli
21. Carp or maybe taramosalata
22. Catfish
23. Caviar with icy cold shots of Russian vodka – nostrovia!
24. Cheese fondue – in an alpine hut or at home on a snowy night in New Hampshire
25. Chitlins or andouillette sausage
26. Clam Chowder – New England of course
27. Cognac
28. Crème Brûlée
29. Crickets, grasshoppers or ants or some other insect, chocolate covered or not
30. Dim sum – how about brunch on a rainy Sunday?
31. Dulce de leche
32. Durian (also known as stinky fruit)
33. Edible flowers – nasturtium are wonderful in a salad
34. Eel – sometimes mistaken for a length of garden hose
35. Eggs Benedict
36. Fajitas – with chicken, beef or fish, it’s up to you!
37. Foie gras
38. Frog’s legs
39. Fugu (Japanese pufferfish)
40. Gelato – any flavor as long as it’s authentic
41. Goulash – Hungarian of course
42. Gumbo or Jambalaya or both
43. Haggis – serve it on Burns’ Night, reading Address to a Haggi is optional
44. Honey on the comb
45. Huevos Rancheros
46. Jerk Chicken
47. Kangaroo
48. Key Lime Pie – with a side of Jimmy Buffet
49. Kobe Beef
50. Lassi (a savory or sweet yogurt drink from India)
51. Lobster – from the Gulf of Maine of course!
52. Magret de canard (duck breast with any one of many wonderful sauces)
53. Dirty martini
54. A good mole with chicken or pork
55. Moose
56. Morel mushrooms – in a soup or surrounded by pastry, morel mushrooms (make that any wild mushroom) are a favorite taste of fall
57. Nettle Tea
58. Octopus
59. Ostrich
60. Oxtail
61. Raw Oysters – only in months with an R
62. Paella
63. Pastrami on rye – preferably in a great NYC deli
64. Peking Duck – in Beijing if you can swing it
65. Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)
66. Homemade pizza – that’s made at home, your home
67. Plantain
68. Polenta
69. Popcorn for dinner
70. Preserved lemons with braised chicken or lamb
71. Rabbit
72. Homemade ricotta
73. Risotto
74. Sauerkraut
75. Sea urchin
76. Shanks – lamb or pork and definitely veal (also known as osso buco), best that you try them all
77. Shark
78. S’mores – how many years has it been? Why not indulge at least once this summer?
79. Snails – with lots of garlic and butter
80. Snake
81. Soft Shell Crab
82. Som Tam (a spicy Thai salad with green papaya)
83. Spaetzle (a German cross between a noodle and a dumpling
84. Center cut Scottish or Norwegian smoked salmon
85. San Francisco sourdough bread
86. Spam – this may require an extra douse of fearlessness!
87. Summer rolls – they are not so difficult to make once you get the hang of it
88. Sushi – with lots of wasabi!
89. Steak tartare
90. Sweetbreads (neither sweet nor bread but the thymus glands of young beef, lamb and pork)
91. The tasting menu at a Michelin star restaurant
92. Thai curry shrimp or scallops
93. Heirloom tomatoes
94. Fried green tomatoes
95. Truffles – the chocolate kind and preferably Swiss!
96. Truffles – the kind you find underground, they’re very pricey so truffle oil counts
97. Twinkie – the makers of this childhood delicacy are in bankruptcy so don’t delay!
98. Vacherine Mont d’Or or du Haut-Doubs (wonderful gooey, stinky cheeses made with unpasteurized milk)
99. Venison – oh no not Bambi! … so how about Elk?
100. A spicy vindaloo with chicken or lamb
101. Wine made from something other than grapes – elderberry? apple? you choose
How many have you already tried? How many are you anxious to try? And how many do you vow will never ever pass your lips?!? Fill out the 101 Dishes score card to see how fearless you are with food!

Bon appétit!

Magret de Canard Provençal
Every spring I like to gather up some of my favorite recipes from warm and sunny climes. This duck will make an excellent addition to your springtime repertoire. And if it’s your first Magret de Canard, you can check one of the 101 dishes off your list. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups dry white wine
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 duck breasts (about 8 ounces each)
1/2 cup dried apricots, slivered
1 red onion, cut in half and then in 1/4-inch thick slices
Olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cognac
About 1/2 cup chicken broth
Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
2-3 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Lightly score the duck breaks through the skin, but not into the flesh, in a cross-hatch pattern. Put 3/4 cup wine, 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons mustard and 1 teaspoon each rosemary and thyme in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste and whisk to combine. Transfer the duck and marinade to a re-sealable plastic bag and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Put the apricots and 1/4 cup wine in a small bowl, cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes to plump.

Put the onion and remaining rosemary and thyme in a large skillet; add a little olive oil and the vinegar, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Cook over medium-low heat until nicely caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cognac and cook 1-2 minutes more. Add the apricots and wine, toss to combine and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Reserve.

While the onion is cooking, remove the duck breasts from the marinade and shake off the excess marinade. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the duck skin side down and cook for 5 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 5 minutes. Transfer the duck to a platter, cover and let rest. (Duck breast is normally eaten rare. If you prefer you meat medium-rare cook it a few minutes longer. If you prefer it well done, then substitute boneless breasts of chicken. Duck breasts don’t do well when over-done and become  tough.)

Drain the excess duck fat from the pan, add 1/2 cup wine and 1 teaspoon mustard, the chicken broth and orange juice and whisk to combine. Bring to a simmer, whisk in the butter and continue whisking until slightly thickened. Add the onions and apricots, toss to combine and cook until heated through.

Slice the duck. Arrange the duck slices on a serving platter or individual plates, garnish with onions and apricots and sprinkle with parsley, orange zest and pine nuts.

The onions and apricots can be prepared in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

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One Year Ago – Strawberry & White Chocolate Fool Parfaits
Two Years Ago – Grilled Lamb & Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Three Years Ago – Spicy Olives
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Are you fearless with food? How well did you do on the 101 Dishes score card? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2012

2 thoughts on “On Being Fearless with Food & Magret de Canard Provençal (Provencal Duck Breast)

  1. I couldn’t figure out how to fill out the score card, Susan. I’ve eaten perhaps fifty of these things. Some, including Twinkies, sushi and sweetbreads, I will never eat again. Some, including frog’s legs, snails, alligator, crocodile, snake and haggis, I don’t plan to try.

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    • Sharyn – It’s old school. You should be able to print it, fill it out and then do a manual count. I’ve had about 80 including frog’s legs and snails – both are delicious – but not sweetbreads, alligator, crocodile, snake or haggis. I had sushi last night. Hope you have fun with the list! Have a good weekend – Susan

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