Sunday, September 30, 2012

Duck Tales (Duck Breast, Cherry Demi Glace)

This post is also available as an article in the 9/26/2012 Williamsport Sun Gazette.

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
While I've come to take it for granted, Williamsport residents should know that our Wegman's makes us the envy of every out of state friend I have. In addition to stocking some of my favorites like edible flowers, passionfruit, and rose water, they now feature a case entirely filled with less common meats. Duck breasts, venison steaks, bison burgers, and guinea fowl wait all trussed up for the taking. Those with hunters in the family might not need to wonder about where to get duck breasts, the rest of us have the grocery.

The cherry on the sundae of modernity
Demi glace is a rich stock made from vast quantities of roasted beef and veal bones and laboriously boiled down over 24 hours or more into a dark, voluptuously savory liquid that forms the basis for a number of French sauces. As much fun as that sounds, I typically take the east way out; reconstituting premade demi glace gel with hot water, stock, or wine. With this handy shortcut, one need only briefly caramelize some shallots for their sweet, oniony perfume, fortify the sauce with creamy butter, and slip in the juicy, sweet-tart cherries to warm through.

Sweet and savory
Pan roasted duck breast with cherry demi glace
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
Saute the shallots over medium heat until softened, ,then add the sherry and demi glace, whisking until dissolved. Simmer until slightly thickened, about ten minutes, then melt in the butter and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in the cherries and remove from the heat.

The final step
While the cherries warm through, slice and plate the duck, topping with generous spoonfuls cherry demi glace. Serves 4.



Unknown said...

Thanks for tip on crisping skin.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.