The February Chef’s Dinner at Cafe Presse is all about sparkling wine from the French countryside. Although many people think of sparkling wine for a toast, it can often be a struggle to find a place for bubbles during the actual meal. With that in mind, I wanted to design a menu that highlights all the different roles that sparkling wine can play by including dishes that, at first blush, don’t seem like intuitive matches….like duck for example.
With this in mind, I reached back into the classical lexicon of duck dishes for an idea that is both seasonal and I think has great potential to pair well with bubbles, salmis de canard.
In his Le Guide Culinaire, Escoffier describes a salmis as a game dish in which the bird is first roasted at high heat until golden on the outside but still rare inside. The legs and breasts are then removed, and the carcass, still nearly rare, is used to make a rich jus. The breasts and legs are then simmered in this jus until tender and delicious, then served on a crouton spread with a mousse made from the birds giblets.
(Note, in his recipe for Salmis de faison, Escoffier warns that “this recipe has literally been spoiled by the haphazard manner in which it has been applied right and left to game”. That’s Escoffier for you, always a little tense. But it does point out how far this dish has fallen from fashion as compared to his epoch when he found it overly common. I remember cooking salmis when I was in culinary school and while working in Paris, but that was nearly 30 years ago).
I have always found duck and cabernet franc to be a very good pairing (or duck and pinot noir or duck and gamay…maybe I just like duck!). With that in mind, I decided to construct my salmis using a Cremant from the Loire valley that is a mix of tcab franc with chenin and chardonnay. To increase the impact of the wine, I decided to modify the salmis recipe slightly by marinating the duck pieces in Cremant overnight.
First step in the process was breaking down the duck into what is known as “fricasse”, which basically just means semi-boneless breasts and legs, each cut into 2 pieces.