Sorry, I've been shirking the blog terribly, letting it go to seed as we race about at work and try to soak up the waning sunshine in the intervening hours. The turning of the season always leaves me feeling a little out of sorts. It's almost imperceptible as it happens, but suddenly the length and warmth of the days begin to slip away and prepare the garden, fields, and mountainside for winter hibernation. Of course, there's so much to enjoy about the early fall, too: turning leaves, the smell of woodsmoke in the air, and apple picking never fail to perk me up. In this case, one of those little pleasures is pairing some of the last ripe summer fruits with autumnal game.
|I'm game if you are|
Unfortunately for ducks, they have succulent, flavorful meat and skin that, when properly cooked, is like thick, crispy bacon. So, with apologies to Plucky, Daffy, Darkwing, and Donald, you should definitely try it if you haven't already. The important part of cooking a duck is definitely the skin, one must prick and score the skin so that the fat can render out. Done wrong, it's rubbery, slimy, and utterly unappealing. Done right, it tastes positively addictive.
|Caramelized shallot strings also help|
|The cherry on the sundae of modernity|
|Sweet and savory|
Adapted from Chez Pascal, Providence, RI
2 duck breasts, about 16 oz each
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 oz sherry or Marsala wine
1.5 oz beef demi glace concentrate (aisle 10B at Wegman's)
2 tbs butter
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 c tart black cherries, stemmed, halved, and pitted
Preheat the oven to 450 F, while also warming a heavy, oven-safe skillet on a burner to medium heat.
|The pattern of the skin is like a guide|
Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels, then use a sharp knife to score the duck skin in a close cross-hatch pattern, cutting into, but not all the through, the skin. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
|Render the fat until the skin crisps throughout|
Cook the duck breasts, skin side down, until the fat has rendered out and the skin has turned crisp and golden, about 5-7 minutes. Flip the breasts and place the skillet into the oven to roast through, about 5 minutes for medium rare, 10 for well done.
Remove the duck breasts to a warmed plate and tent with foil to rest, at least fifteen minutes. Drain all but 1 tbs of the fat from the pan (save this for roasting vegetables and potatoes) and return to the burner.
|Sizzling merrily away|
|The final step|