Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sour Cherry Anniversary

The day after graduating college, I met my husband while out with one of my girls - one of the "my girls" I speak of so fondly in Gnocchi, Gah-nocky. Well, the hubby and I met the very night I had sworn off the emotional agony of dating. Before him, everyone was just not that into me and, of course, I never realized it until I was crying with one or all of my girls wondering why oh why couldn't I find love?

They say it happens when you least expect it and I definitely least expected it while sitting in the dirtiest bar in New York, a little jewel called the Cherry Tavern, bored, grumpy and watching my friend try out her very fake English accent on a bunch of blokes who ate it all up. But then a tall blond came my way and parked himself next to me. There was talk of butterflies and cocoons - weird stuff to be sure - and then an exchange of numbers. While he may not remember this, my husband fell in love with me at first sight. Yes, it's true. He called me and wooed me, bringing wine and ice cream on the first date and a bouquet of flowers the next day for our second. With the exception of a three week break up at the end of our first year, we've been together for 9 years: two of them dating, one engaged and 6 married.

This past Sunday we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary so I decided to make him a special dinner. I had bought a pint of sour cherries at the market and thought duck breast with sour cherries, wild rice and some veggies would be perfect. Oh and it was. So much so that baby girl ate as much duck as we did and got very angry when we didn't give her her own glass of wine. However, she did says cheers and clink her little water glass against our wine glasses as we toasted to ourselves and another 6, 12, 18, 24, 30, etc. - you know to the times-tables, right? - years.

Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce
(This dish is as easy to cook as it is beautiful to look at. It's sure to impress anyone you decide to make it for whether it's a new flame or a lasting love.)

What You'll Need:

1 cup wild rice mix (I like the Lundberg wild rice mix)
2 cups chicken stock
2 Duck Breasts (Moulard or Pekin are tasty options)
1 pint sour cherries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 shallot, finely diced
1 bottle Pinot Noir (For cooking and drinking)
4 sprigs of thyme

About an hour before you'd like to eat, place a small pot over a high heat. Pour in the chicken stock and add the rice. Stir once or twice and bring to a boil. Cover and turn down the heat to a simmer.

Take the cherries, wash them and pit them. I don't have a cherry-pitter so I just cut the cherries and removed the pits by hand. Anyone have a pitter? Is it handy? Then add the sugar to the cherries, stir with a spoon and let them macerate.

Put a frying pan over a medium-high flame. While the pan is coming to temperature, take out your duck breasts, and, with a very sharp knife, gently score the skin in a cross-hatch design. Be careful not to cut the skin. Duck is very fatty - doing this will help render the fat. Sprinkle the skin generously with salt and pepper and place the breasts skin side down into the frying pan. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the fat has been rendered and the skin is a crispy brown.

Holding the breasts down with a pare of tongs, pour out the rendered fat into a container (you can discard this or use it for roasting veggies among other delicious things), sprinkle the uncooked side with some salt and pepper and flip them over. Cook for another 8-10 minutes or until it's medium rare. While I know this is sacrilege, I cut into one breast to see that it's a nice rosy color. You might like other meats well done, but duck is really at its best medium-rare. Remove the breasts and set on a cutting board to rest and reabsorb its juices.

Pour out the remaining fat keeping just enough to glaze the pan. Return the pan to the flame and add the pitted cherries, shallot and thyme, cook for a minute or two and then add about half a bottle of red wine. Let it boil gently until the sauce has reduced by two thirds. I also took a potato masher and squashed the cherries to distribute even more cherry flavor throughout the sauce.

To serve, spoon some wild rice on the plate. Then slice the duck breasts in quarter to half-inch slices and overlap about 5 slices together on the plate. Spoon a bit of sauce over the duck and have a lovely green salad on the side. I also served some roasted carrots and turnips we had leftover from our CSA. This is a wonderful meal for celebrations or for any night you want to eat like a king. Enjoy!

Approximate Dinner Cost
• Groceries - $33.00
• Leftovers – Expect 4 servings at $8.25 a serving.

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  1. cherries for the cherry tavern :)

  2. LOL! So true. Wish I'd put two and two together.

  3. How serendipitous that you DIDN'T put two and two together. This is great. Question--how do you know which duck to use, and are there lots of other varieties of duck aside from those you posted above? Oh, and Happy Anniversary!

  4. Thanks! Well, I wish I could answer better, but Pekin and Moulard tend to bet the two most available in my area.

    Pekin is also called Long Island style duck and was brought here from China come years ago according to Maple Leaf Farms: http://www.mapleleaffarms.com/47 - This the is type I usually cook.

    Moulard is a fattier and meatier breast because it comes from the ducks raised to create foie gras. So, if you have an issue with foie gras, you probably have an issue with Moulard.

  5. Your dishes always look perfect (and tasty). Thanks again for another great post and recipe. And, yes, Happy Anniversary!

  6. Thanks, everyone! It was a very happy anniversary, indeed!

  7. I love duck. Thanks for sharing a great new recipe.



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