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Is Caterina di Medici Responsible for French Cuisine?

by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

Just imagine . . . Caterina di Medici arriving in Paris. She is so very young at age fourteen and has just married Henry II of Valois—only fourteen himself! Proud of her Florentine cooking heritage, she brings recipes from her home to her new life in France. Accompanied by a crew of trusted Florentine chefs, gardeners, and vintners, she would influence the culinary arts forever.

I’d love to continue to share some of the Tuscan recipes Caterina brought to France.

The Papero al Melarancio was a daily recipe for the table of Medici, and it was turned into the gourmet Canard a l’Orange. This dish is a simple duck with an orange gravy. Personally, I don’t like duck meat because I love ducks (they are so cute!), so I cook chicken instead. The results are delicious!

Duck with Orange Gravy

Preheat oven to slow, 300° F / 150°C.

4 duck breasts, skin on, scored

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


30 g butter

3 shallots, finely sliced

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

⅔ cup orange juice

Grated zest

1 orange, segmented

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper

Brush each duck breast with oil. Season to taste.

Preheat an ovenproof pan or cast-iron skillet on the flame and place the duck breasts on the hot skillet to fry the duck breasts, skin-side down, for 8 minutes to render the fat. Turn breasts over.

Place pan in oven until duck is cooked to taste—internal temperature: 170° F / 75° C

Remove the breasts from the pan to rest on a plate. The meat has to be pink in the center, juicy and tender, and the skin, crispy.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan on high fire.

Sauté shallots until tender.

Add Grand Marnier and stir in juice, zest, sugar, orange segments, and bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and let evaporate until sticky.

Drizzle on the duck breasts and serve.

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