Cooking With Wine: Gascony, Beyond Bordeaux

Cooking with Wine

Cooking With Wine is on SOMM TV and features renowned chef Kate Hill as she cooks through the regions of France. With over 30 years of experience and teaching students from all over the world, episode 1 features Kate taking viewers to Gascony to cook Magret de CanardCreate this regional speciality at home with the recipe below. 

When guests arrive for the first time at Camont, I almost always make a version of this classic Gascon supper – Magret de Canard. It’s grilled medium-rare duck breasts, blanketed with a Sauce au Vin prepared with a very local Côte de Gascogne wine. I usually serve it with duck fat roasted potatoes and a sharp green salad. This meal can be Summer, shared outside near the wood oven grill – or Autumn, cozy by the kitchen stove. And as the fatted duck is the leitmotif of Gascony’s culinary soundtrack, the fragrant and hearty wines that grow inland from the Bordeaux region provide the base notes of flavor that reverberate across the terroir.

An Intro to Côte de Gascogne

Typical grapes that grow in the Côte de Gascogne district include well-known varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Indigenous grapes include Abouriou, Duras, Fer, Négrette, Portugias Bleu, and Tannat. For this recipe, I chose a very local Domaine de Meillan red wine by the Aubry family, who also sells Armagnac, floc (a regional apéritif), and a selection of their wines at my weekly farmers market in Lavardac.

Typical of the area, the red wines benefit from a long growing season, hot summers moderated by Atlantic Ocean currents, and the Pyrennees influencing the rhythm of the climate. These are accessible wines made to drink with the food of this area- generally hearty, substantial farm-based fare. Many of those same regional recipes feature wine sauces and civets as well as marinating poultry and beef. Côtes de Gascogne stands up well to duck and game or served as an apéritif alongside generous charcuterie platters and homemade terrines. 

This Sauce au Vin, a reduced wine sauce, features three layers of wine — red wine vinegar, wine jelly, and the wine itself. It’s the perfect introduction to Gascon cooking: simple complexity, direct, and full of flavor. I learned this approach to making a reduced wine sauce from my dear friend Vétou Pompèle, a generous local village cook; her sauces are always the best. The trifecta of layers makes for a complex flavor foundation supporting the special grilled duck breasts. This is really a perfect first introduction to my neighborhood – a Taste of Gascony.

Magret de Canard et sa Sauce au Vin
Ingredients for Magret de Canard et sa Sauce au Vin

Magret de Canard et sa Sauce au Vin

(serves 4 people total)

  • 2 duck breasts, 400-500 grams each (true Magret de Canard are from ducks raised for foie gras- thick and richly textured dark red meat that looks like beef); remove the skin and fat and set aside for potatoes (see below)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 6 large baking potatoes: russet, yukon gold, or charlotte
  • A splash of Armagnac
  1. Remove the duck breasts’ skin and fat, set aside; salt the meat on both sides, and set aside at room temperature.
  2. Prepare the potatoes: cut into large chunks, season with salt and pepper and put in an ovenproof dish; cube the duck fat and skin and place in a layer on top of the potatoes; roast in a hot (200°C/415°F) oven for 30-45 minutes or until deep brown and thoroughly cooked.
  3. While the potatoes cook, prepare the Sauce au Vin as below.
  4. Grill the duck breasts over a fire or in a sauté pan until medium-rare (about 4 minutes on each side). Drizzle some Armagnac over the surface of the meat while cooking. When done, remove from the heat and rest 5 minutes before carving; then slice and dress with wine sauce and serve alongside the roasted potatoes.

In this clip from Gascony, Beyond Bordeaux, we learn how to separate the skin and fat from the duck breast.

Sauce au Vin

  • 2 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoons duck fat
  • 2 ladles of red wine vinegar
  • 2 glasses of red wine 
  • Salt and black pepper added after reduction
  • 1 tablespoon or red wine jelly (red current or other jelly can substituted)
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
  1. Place the sliced shallots and duck fat in a saucepan and gently cook over low heat. When the shallots are soft and translucent but not brown, add the red wine vinegar. Let cook until all the liquid is absorbed and reduced. Take care not to burn.
  2. Next, add the red wine and turn the heat up and simmer until reduced by half; taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed.
  3. Add the red wine jelly, and stir in until dissolved.
  4. Next, remove the sauce from heat and stir in the unsalted butter, so the sauce is slightly thickened and has a lovely sheen. Keep warm and serve some over the duck slices as well as alongside. 
Cooking With Wine: Episode 1 Magret de Canard
Magret de Canard et sa Sauce au Vin from Cooking With Wine Episode 1: Gascony, Beyond Bordeaux on SOMM TV

Recipe © Kate Hill. Visit for online classes, in-person programs, and tours in France.

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