Oh hello loyal readers (so…hi Mom!). For those following along at home– sour cherry week continues with a delicious savory take on the pie filling favorite.
We here in the Toloday home have loved duck for a long time. For reasons completely inexplicable to both of us, Chris and I latched onto roasted duck as a “fancy and very grown up” main course all the way back in High School. For our 1 year dating anniversary, high school spiked hair Chris roasted an entire duck (using the Duck à l’orange sauce packet that came with it, natch).
When he was in college interning for a summer in Utah, I visited for a week. During that week, I walked myself down to the local grocery store, bought a frozen duck, and roasted it for his boss and his wife. WHAT WERE WE DOING? Nobody our age ate duck, let alone roasted entire birds! I would love to know what his boss was thinking when they came over to his pretty much completely unfurnished apartment and ate roasted duck on a folding table.
Seeing as how duck has always been a favorite of ours, the rich flavorful bird was an obvious choice to pair with just some of our one million sour acidic cherries in a savory dish. Despite its fancy reputation, this dish is great for a weeknight when you are just so sick of chicken, and a good way to try duck at home without going for a whole roasted bird. It looks fancy but easily came together in less than 30 minutes.
An obvious bonus of cooking duck is all the delicious fat that renders out when you sear the breasts. Save this fat, strain it through some cheesecloth and keep it in your freezer. I’ve included an easy BONUS couscous recipe that pairs really well with this duck and makes use of that delicious duck fat.
So if you have a cherry tree that just won’t quit, or you, ahem, know someone with 20+ lbs in their freezer, and you’re up for trying a different kind of bird for dinner- I encourage you to forgo the pie this time and go savory!
Roasted Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Pan Sauce
4 duck breasts
1 Tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 medium cloves)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 C red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon)
1/2 C chicken stock (or DUCK stock if you are really going for it)
1 C sour cherries, pitted, and roughly chopped + 1 Tbsp juice, reserved
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1 Tb unsalted butter, cold.
Prepare duck breasts: skin side up, pat dry with paper towel. Using sharp knife, score the skin in a crosshatch pattern, making sure not to cut into the breast meat. Season generously with salt and pepper
Place duck skin side down into cold pan and turn on medium low heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until most of the fat has rendered and the skin is golden brown. The slower and lower you go, the better! Remove duck breasts and set on plate. Pour off all but about a tsp of the fat (SAVE THE FAT!!) into ramekin. Place ducks skin side up back into hot pan for about 30 seconds to seal the other side. Flip breasts once again skin side up, and pop into 350F oven for 5 min or until a thermometer inserted into the breast reads 135F for medium rare.
Remove pan from oven and place cooked duck on plate. Cover with foil and set aside to rest.
While duck rests, prepare the pan sauce. Add 1 Tb of reserved duck fat to the pan until shimmering. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add red wine and scrape up all the delicious ducky bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook over medium heat and reduce until only a couple tablespoons remain. Be sure to take a big whiff, the smell of wine hitting a hot pan and deglazing is one of my favorite smells ever!
Add chicken stock, minced thyme, and cherries and continue to cook over medium heat until syrupy. Cook until a spatula dragged on the bottom of the pan leaves a trail. Plop the butter pat into the sauce and using your spoon or whatever you are cooking with, swirl it around until it melts. This will add some richness and body to the sauce. Remove from heat. Taste test and add up to 1Tbsp of cherry juice to finish.
Slice duck breast on the diagonal and fan out if you like your food to look fancy. Serve over couscous with crusty bread and a glass of red wine!
Duck Fat Toasted Pearl Couscous with Wilted Spinach
1 Tb duck fat
1 C Pearl couscous
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 C chicken stock
Add duck fat to medium sized sauce pan and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Toss in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
Add couscous to hot fat and toast, stirring frequently, until it turns lovely shade of golden, about 5ish minutes.
Add chicken stock (watch out– you’re adding liquid to fat! It might go a little crazy at first) and let come to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cover. Cook over medium low heat until liquid is almost absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add 2 C of baby spinach and stir to combine. Cover and let liquid completely reduce, another 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Set aside.
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