Today I want to talk about a recipe which has almost disappeared in Italy, but it is one of the most important dishes in France
“ Duck with Orange”.
Perhaps you do not know that duck with orange is a Florentine recipe originating from the time of Caterina de ‘Medici, Queen of France (Florence 1519 – Blois 1589), daughter of Lorenzo de ‘Medici, Duke of Urbino, married in 1533 to the future Henry II, then Duke of Orléans. First eclipsed by the king’s favourite, Diana of Poitiers, at the death of her husband (1559) and even more so at the death of her firstborn son Francesco II (1560), she became the arbiter of the kingdom, as guardian of the young king Charles IX. She manouvered, to defend the prestige of the monarchy, between the Catholic nobility close to the Guise family and the Calvinist nobility; more sensitive to the political factor than to the religious factor, she tried in 1561 and in 1563 a conciliation with the Calvinists to approach England and the Protestant German princes, as a counterweight to Spanish dominance. But the attempt of the Huguenot G. de Coligny to drag king Charles IX into the war against Spain in the Netherlands, the war that at that time king Charles did not want, determined the reaction of the queen, who ordered in the night of San Bartolomeo (24th Ag 1572), the Calvinist massacre. After 1580, when her son Henry III reigned, her influence quickly declined.
When she moved to Paris at the court of Henry II, she was absolutely not satisfied by the French cuisine, and so she made sure that Italian chefs joined her. They were Florentine, Tuscan and Sicilian.She made them realize all those recipes which she was particularly fond of, and which soon became famous. The French chefs then learned from the chefs of Caterina those tasty recipes that would later become the foundations of traditional French cuisine.
Caterina de ‘Medici’s table was laid with damask tablecloths, and the dishes were changed between one course and another. She introduced the use of the fork, because the French still ate with their hands. It was customary to use the three main fingers to bring the food to the mouth with affected elegance! Savoury dishes were divided from dessert, meals accompanied by music, and for the first time appeared broccoli, asparagus, peas, tomatoes and the queen’s favorite, artichokes. Pasta (macaroni, tagliatelle and lasagna), fruit sorbets, zabaglione and cream were also introduced
But let’s get to the heart of the subject and see which were the recipes that she loved and had a following in French cuisine.
From the “glue” sauce, now called béchamel or béchamelle sauce, to the cream puffs, to the choux pastry, from the “carabaccia” that the French call “soupe a l’oignon”, from “egg-fish” that the French call omelettes, from the biscuits ( without a particular name) that the French called “macarons”, from the zabaglione that the French call “sabayon” and finally to our duck with orange that the French call “Canard à l’orange”, but that in Florence was called “Papero alla melarancia” (the melarancia seems to have been a type of citrus, now gone, but mixing 4 oranges with 1 lemon gives a similar taste)