Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seared Duck Breast with Cherry & Cranberry Red Wine Sauce, Poached Pear and Watercress Salad

Well I'm in London now and very excited to be here. These next few weeks are scheduled to be quite busy so I'm not so sure how often I'll be able to get on here. Still some things have to be done, like figuring out how to eat in a new country! Learning not only how to cook, but also how to shop for ingredients in each country is a real learning experience. Today for instance I was looking for nuts and dried fruit, and apparently I needed to be heading over to the baking section....who knew? Also it seems, at least at the market I was at, that sausage and milk make a convenient aisle. Who knew? 

One of the things I am tentatively most excited about here is that there appears to be a rather common selection of what Americans would consider specialty game meat; venison, pheasant, goose, quail, duck etc. I love game birds especially and have been craving duck for weeks, so when I saw it was about half of what I'd pay in the US, I knew what I was having for dinner.  
Red fruit, pear, shallots, greens, winter herbs,  Stilton, duck breast


Cherry & Cranberry Red Wine Sauce
1 Shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
3 Tbsp Butter
1+ tsp flour
5 cherries
10 cranberries
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
1/2Tbsp fresh thyme
1+ Cup red wine

Poached Pear
1/4 cup Sugar
1.5 cups water
1/2 cups Orange Juice, Fresh squeezed
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/2 Pear

Pan Seared Duck 
1 Duck Breast
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Garlic clove, Diced
1/4 Onion, rough chopped
2 hand-fulls of spinach
1 chunk Stilton, Crumbled
2 leaves of fresh Sage
2 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

Watercress Salad
1 Hand-full Watercress
1 Tbsp Almonds, Sliced
2 Tbsp Cranberries, dried
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Pinch Chopped Thyme
Pinch Chopped Rosemary
Dash Salt
Dash Pepper

Cherry & Cranberry Red Wine Sauce

Add the garlic and shallots to a sauce pan with just one Tbsp of butter, Cook until the shallots begin to become translucent and then add the chopped herbs. Continue stirring until the garlic has started to brown, then add the red wine, cranberries and cherries. Add the remaining butter to a saute pan and once melted stir in the flower, set aside. Once the wine has reduced by more than half, stir in the butter-flour mixture. Once fully incorporated remove from heat and set aside.

Poached Pear

Add water, orange juice, juice from half a lemon, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves to a pot on high heat and bring to a boil. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Cut the pear in half and using a paring knife cut out the pit/seeds. I like keeping the stem for display. Cook the pear for just about five to seven minutes, flesh down. After removing the pear, continue to cook the liquid until it begins to thicken a bit and then remove from heat. Slice the pear lengthwise a few times and drizzle a spoon full of poaching syrup over it. Garnish with the cinnamon stick.

Pan Seared Duck

Now I had made a salad with the other breast the night before and stored this breast in garlic, olive oil, rough chopped onion, and fresh rosemary and thyme. You don't need to marinade the breast overnight, but it should be rubbed down in oil, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Duck can be a bit tricky to cook. Overcooked duck is almost a crime, but it's easy to do if you're not familiar with it. Word to the wise, it's better to have under cooked duck than overcooked, besides you can always cook it a bit more. Duck breasts have one side with fat and skin and the other side will be bear. Start cooking the skin side down. It will take a bit for the heat to break down the fat and get to the meat. The skin is good when cooked to be a bit crisp, so it's easy to add heat from this side. Once you do flip the breast pay very close attention to how firm the meat is getting. You never really want to cook duck more than medium rare in my opinion, but some might disagree.

Once the duck is ready, place it on a cutting board and discard the remaining oil until there is just about a tsp or two of juice left. Add the spinach and saute it in this oil (it's flavored with the duck now) and throw in a pinch of salt. Cook just until wilted and then place on the plate. Slice the duck and place it over the spinach. Crumble the Stilton around the base and pour a few spoonfuls of the red wine sauce over the duck. Garnish with rosemary and a cherry.

Watercress Salad

In a bowl mix the vinegar, oil, herbs and salt and pepper. In another bowl mix the watercress, almonds, and cranberries. Just before plating toss the dressing into the greens, and then plate.

Thoughts on this dish

What I love about this dish it that it's rather light but it has all of those warm winter flavors. This blog could almost be called cooking with cranberries so far, but I really do love them this time of year and they add a great flavor to a myriad of things. For instance they are used to completely different effect in the red wine sauce here compared to the salad, and are great in both. Cherries go so well with duck, and the combination of both with Stilton is just one of my favorites. This contrasts really nicely with the very light salad with a nice contrasting vinegar that cuts some of the heavier flavors. The pear is almost like a desert, but again it's another good compliment to the duck and it's something I try to sneak onto many of my autumn and winter dishes when it fits.

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