Saturday, January 14, 2012

Duck Breasts with Citrus Port Cherry Sauce-- Ooh-la-la!

Whenever I go to a "nice" restaurant, and I see "duck" on the menu, I get really excited.  The price, however, can make me think twice about ordering it.  But if the chef prepared the duck with a cherry sauce, then it's a done deal.   I love it.

Recently, when we were in San Francisco's Chinatown. I got a little freaked out at the how their whole duck was displayed.  Suffice it to say, that I don't want my dinner to to be served in a state where I can see the entire bird-- neck, beak and all.   That's enough to make me convert to being a vegetarian. Sort of. It was so unsettling, that I played it safe and ordered sesame chicken. 'Nuff said.   My favorite part of poultry is the breast meat. 

It seems that my son has inherited my love of duck.  He's been asking me to make duck at home, but I've stalled out for the longest time.  You see, I've never made duck before.  There's a perfectly good reason why-- I was too chicken to make duck.  Pardon the pun.

It's not like one can easily find fresh "duck" in the fresh aisle of your grocery market.  The frozen duck breasts I've found have a salt solution, or have been pre-seasoned. I don't want that.  Luckily, Whole Foods carries fresh duck around the holidays.  It was time to seize the opportunity and to make the duck dinner my son had been requesting.

I think my fear of cooking duck is that I don't want to ruin a pricey piece of meat.  I did a little research, to give me wisdom and confidence,  and then told my son that his wish was finally my command.

If you've never made duck breast, it's important to score breast skin with a very sharp knife.

Just be sure that you don't cut through to the meat.  Done.

One of my favorite cooking methods is "searing".  I love a crusty exterior, and all those lovely brown bits makes such a beautiful pan sauce.   I knew I wanted to make a cherry pan sauce.  Then again, I think orange goes really well with duck. So, why not do both?

Instead of using fresh cherries (which are out of season), I used a jar of sour cherry preserves, an orange and Ruby Port Wine.

The duck breasts are free of any moisture, has been at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and the pan is screaming hot.  There isn't any oil for a very good reason-- the duck is going to render a lot of fat!  Here we go! It's sizzling....

The breasts are seared, skin side down, for about 10 minutes...

This is how I like the skin-- crispy and golden.  See all the fat?

Turn the duck breasts over and cook for about 3 more minutes. Remove them, cover loosely with foil and pour out the rendered duck fat. Don't throw it out! I saved mine in a glass jar, because duck fat and potatoes = yum!  Now, for the pan sauce...

I started with chopped shallots, sauteed until translucent. Next, the port and orange juice is added, while scraping off all the flavorful brown stuff.

Last, I added the zest of the orange...

Now, comes the preserves, and then the sauce is reduced at a boil, until it reduces and starts to thicken.

I don't always do this, but since this is a special dinner, I turn off the heat and add a couple pats of unsalted butter. Whisk it in, and the sauce takes on a silky texture with a rich flavor.

Since this dinner was in the "fancy" category, I decided to make Gruyere Au Gratin Potatoes

I like my duck to be medium-rare (130F).  As I sliced into the duck breast, I said a little prayer that I didn't overcook the duck.  Amen.  The meat turned out super moist and juicy-- and the color was perfect.

Taking photos proved to be a challenge.  When you have two hungry men (and a cook), anxious to dig in, I had to work really fast to get my shot and get on to dinner!

My son works at a restaurant. He had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (double-shift lunch and dinner).  This was mom's way of making up for the holiday dinners, with his family, that he missed out on.   So, he got served first...

Sides dishes were roasted asparagus and Yukon Gold Potatoes Au Gratin.

My son, skillfully uncorked a bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir.

TASTING NOTES:  First, I have to ask myself what took me so long to make duck! It's not hard to do, at all. In fact, this dinner took less than an hour to put together, and that includes photographing each step.  I adapted this recipe from Food Network (here) and I'm glad that I did not bake the breasts (per the original recipe).  Had I done so, I think the duck would have been overcooked.  It was perfect.  The sauce was delicious.  According to my son, he said this dinner was worthy to be served at his restaurant (which is a "nice" one in Carmel).  To a mom, that is the ultimate compliment.   I only wish I had bought more than two duck breasts (I was being cheap careful.)   I could see my son eyeing my serving. SIGH.  (Yes, I gave him more.)

As for the potatoes-- my two men loved them.  I'll share that next.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post. 

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FOODalogue said...

You did a beautiful, plating and photographing!

Monica H said...

Ooh, I love duck too and this looks amazing! I'm glad B got you to get out of your comfort zone and make it.

Christine said...

I haven't had duck in sooooo long! Loved the photos and your excellent directions. You made it look so easy! I may just have to try it!

Aarthi said...

YUMMY YUMMY..Thanks for posting


Ciao Chow Linda said...

That duck breast looks perfectly cooked. It's always a challenge getting a good shot while hungry folks are standing by, but you did a great job.

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Ooh, la, la for sure Debbie. My husband would love this. Going on my to do list. Thanks.

Noelle Marie said...

So beautiful! I love duck! Nice job on the skin! Just love this post.

Amy said...

I love duck and this is definitely restaurant-worthy!

Velva said...

Duck is eaten all overt the world and yet we Americans shy away from it-Its delicious! I have only made it once too, and thought why don't I make this more often. I think part of the problem as you mentioned in your blog, it's not readily available, especially fresh.

Your duck looks fabulous!


bellini said...

Looks like you cooked it to perfection Debbie. I have never coked a duck at home. I took a food tour of Chinatown the last time in was in SF and I may never eat meat again after what I saw before my eyes:D I like to buy my meat in a package from the grocery aisle:D

Joanne said...

I've only had duck a handful of times, but every time it was delicious. It's really hard to find though! This cherry sauce sounds like the perfect compliment to that rich bird!

Mary said...

What a glorious entree, Debbie. Your tutorial is wonderful and should make it easy for anyone to make this lovely duck. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I am a huge duck lover too. For a long time I couldn't get my husband on board, but he's finally a convert. I'll almost always order it at restaurants!

I was definitely afraid of cooking duck for years, but I started with breasts and eventually worked my way up to a whole duck for the first time last year (I'm not a huge fan of Alton's Browns overblown methods in general, but his duck method worked very nicely for me).

I love your cherry sauce and your potatoes look gorgeous! Professional!

beti said...

it looks perfectly cooked, so juicy and that sauce sounds really good

Tom and Liz said...

i have just come across your blog and i think it is fantastic. this duck recipe reminds me of a meal i cooked a few weeks ago where i combined duck with passionfruit - it worked really well too.

i am off now to look around the rest of your blog!