Make Crispy Duck Breast for your Valentine

Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

 

Valentines Day is one of the busiest nights of the year for restaurants. For me, it is a time to enjoy a lovely meal at home with good friends. I can’t think of a better dish to serve than crispy duck breasts. Easy to prepare for a novice cook, duck breasts are the best combination of a crispy duckling and the meatiness of a good steak.

 

Cooking duck breasts used to intimidate me. I am not sure why but I am glad I finally tried cooking them. The key to their crisp skin is letting the skin dry out overnight in the refrigerator. Quick to put together and much less messy than roasting a whole duck, duck breasts are a perfect main course for a small dinner party.

 

You can gather in the kitchen as you cook them up. This will serve 4 to 6 depending upon how large the duck breasts are and how big your guest’s appetites are. If you just want dinner for two, you can halve the amount of duck breasts, but I would make the whole sauce amount in this recipe. If you’re wondering why, my philosophy is you can never have too much sauce! Try to find fresh duck breasts because the frozen variety tend to become rubbery. Muscovy or Hudson Valley ducks are preferred.

 

For Valentines dinner pair the duck with herbed rice or orzo pasta. The sweet red cherry sauce is a vibrant contrast to the crispy brown skin. Bright green broccoli spears completes the menu. I vote for an Oregon Pinot Noir to drink. For dessert, anything chocolate, of course, and maybe a Late Harvest Dessert wine to cap off the evening with sweet thoughts.

 

Crispy Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

 

Serves 4 to 6

Remember to start this one day ahead of serving.

 

4 (¾-1 pound) boned duck breast halves with the skin left on

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

Sauce

3 medium shallots, minced

3/4 cup veal or duck stock

1 ½ tablespoons orange honey

3 tablespoons Tawny port

3/4 cup fresh pitted Bing cherries (you can use frozen, if fresh is not available)

1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

  1. Pound the duck halves between two pieces of wax paper with a heavy pan or a mallet to even out the thickness. Score the duck breasts with a very sharp knife by cutting crisscross lines on the skin, making sure not to cut into the duck meat. Place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with wax paper. Refrigerate overnight to allow the skin to dry out for a crispy end result.

 

 

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet, large enough to fit the four halves, on medium-high. Sauté the duck breasts, skin side down for about 5-7 minutes or until the skin is very crisp and nicely browned. Turn over and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the duck breasts are medium rare. Remove and place on a wood carving platter and loosely cover. (If you prefer medium, cook another 2 minutes on the second side). Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

 

 

  1. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings and sauté the shallots for a minute or until softened, stirring the brown bits up. Add the stock, honey, port and cherries and increase the heat to high. Reduce the mixture to a light glaze, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the 1 ½ tablespoons butter to thicken and add sheen to the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

  1. Slice the duck breasts thinly on the diagonal and arrange on serving plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve immediately.

 

 

Advance Preparation: May be prepared through step 1 up to one day ahead and refrigerated.

Chef’s Salad

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Ingredients

  • 2 heads of butter lettuce, pale inner leaves only, washed and dried
  • 13 pound honey-baked ham, cut into julienne
  • 13 pound smoked chicken or roast turkey, cut into julienne
  • 8 ounces Monterey jack or Swiss cheese, cut into julienne
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, cut into quarters
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large salad serving bowl, arrange the leaves of the butter lettuce, tearing the larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Arrange the ham, smoked chicken and cheese on top of the lettuce. You can keep each ingredient separate from the others or jumble them all together. The julienne strips could radiate outward from the center of the salad like the spokes of a wheel. Place the wedges of cherry tomato and hard-boiled egg among the main ingredients.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, shallot, and salt and pepper until well-blended. While continuously whisking the dressing, drizzle in the oil, and continue whisking for another 10 to 20 seconds until emulsified.
  3. The salad should be served with the dressing on the side, then dressed and tossed at the table.

Makes 4 servings.

Chilled Artichoke Halves with Two Sauces

Ingredients

  • 3 large globe artichokes
  • Water
  • 3 slices lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cut the sharp points off the artichoke leaves with kitchen shears. Remove the small, dry outer leaves from around the base of the artichoke. Cut off the stem 1 inch from the bottom of each artichoke.
  2. Soak the artichokes in cold water for at least 15 minutes to clean them.
  3. Place the artichokes upright in a large pan with about 4 inches of water, lemon slices and olive oil. Cook them on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes, partially covered, or until the leaves pull off easily. Bring the artichokes to room temperature and then cut them in half.
  4. Scoop out the choke of the artichoke with a teaspoon and discard it. Place the artichokes in the refrigerator. Just before serving, arrange the halves on serving plates and spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce into each half.

 

Here are two sauces that can be used on the artichoke. They are NOT meant to be used together.

Summer Vinaigrette

Ingredients

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 12 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine the shallot, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, basil, chives and parsley. Whisk to combine and slowly add the oil until it is incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. Place the vinaigrette in a tightly covered container and refrigerate. Remove it a half hour before serving to thin the dressing.

Red Pepper Aioli

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 roasted, peeled, seeded and finely chopped medium sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Instructions

  1. Add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until they are pureed. Add the red pepper and process until it is well-blended. Add the mayonnaise and process. Add the salt, pepper and cayenne, and taste for seasoning.
  2. Refrigerate the sauce until serving time.

Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Flank Steak with Smoky Salsa

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup Smoky Salsa (see below)
  • 1 cup full-bodied beer
  • 1-2 pound flank steak

Instructions

  1. Combine 1/2 cup of the salsa and 3/4 cup of the beer in a medium mixing bowl and mix until well blended. Flatten out the flank steak in a shallow, large nonaluminum dish. Pour the marinade over it and marinate for 2 to 24 hours covered in the refrigerator; the longer, the more tender.
  2. In a small serving bowl, combine the remaining salsa and beer for the sauce and mix together. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Prepare a barbecue for medium-heat grilling. Remove the steak from the marinade and grill it 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for a medium-rare. Place on a carving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice against the grain. Serve immediately with the sauce.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to 1 day ahead through step 2 and refrigerated.

Smoky Salsa

Ingredients

  • 5 large Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, cut into thick slices
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1/3 medium bunch of cilantro, bottom stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon canned chipotle peppers
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Prepare a barbecue for medium-high-heat grilling. Grill the tomatoes, onion slices and scallions until partially charred, turning occasionally. The red onions will take the longest. Transfer to a plate. Grill the cilantro for about 30 seconds, just to wilt and give off a slight smoky flavor.
  2. With the motor running, add the garlic cloves to a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until pureed. Add the grilled vegetables and remaining ingredients and process until all the vegetables are pureed. Taste for seasoning. (For a thinner consistency, add more chicken stock.) Serve with chips and guacamole or as a condiment for grilled chicken or meat.

Advance Preperation

Recipe can be prepared up to one week ahead, covered tightly and refrigerated.

Makes 4 to 6.

Corn and Tomato Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped, about 2 1/2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 4 ears), cobs reserved and cut in half
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 3 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup croutons
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks; cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes; cook until slightly softened, 3 minutes. Add the flour; stir until flour dissolves. Cook 2 more minutes.
  2. Add the corn kernels, basil leaves, tomato paste, chicken stock and corncobs. Heat to a simmer; cook, partially covered, 25 minutes. Remove the corncobs and discard.
  3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or food processor. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve, garnished with croutons, a dollop of sour cream and a basil sprig.

Makes 4 servings

Menemen

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced or diced (you can use a yellow or red pepper instead)
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Saute the onion for 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the peppers and continue cooking until the onions are golden and the peppers are softened, about 5 more minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened and much of the juice has evaporated. Add the salt, pepper and chili flakes, and cook another minute. Lower heat to medium.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the eggs in a bowl and whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper and add the feta cheese.
  4. Stir the egg mixture into the cooked vegetables and scramble the eggs until they are just done, 5 to 6 minutes. Do not overcook.
  5. Mix sumac, olive oil, garlic, Greek yogurt and salt in small bowl.
  6. Transfer to plates or shallow bowls or serve right from the pan. Drizzle with sumac yogurt sauce and garnish with parsley. Serve the remaining yogurt sauce on the side.

Makes 4 servings

 

Summer Caprese Salad with Watermelon, Cucumber and Feta Relish

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Ingredients

Relish:

  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch diced seedless yellow or red watermelon
  • 1 1/2 cups 1/2-inch diced European cucumber
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups mixed greens, such as spring greens, arugula or mache
  • 6 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the relish ingredients in a medium bowl carefully, making sure to not break the watermelon into smaller pieces. Reserve.
  2. In a small bowl, add the red wine vinegar. While whisking, slowly stream in the olive oil and continue whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Just before serving, arrange the mixed greens in the center of a large circular platter. Cut the tomatoes into 1 1/2-inch slices and arrange on a platter in a circular pattern overlapping.
  4. Pour about half of the dressing over the relish and mix to combine. Taste for seasoning. Place a dollop of relish on each tomato slice. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve immediately.

Advance Preparation

Relish and dressing may be made up to 2 hours ahead, covered and kept at room temperature. It is best to finish this just before serving.

Variations

  • Substitute diced or tiny balls of fresh mozzarella or crumbled goat cheese for the feta cheese.
  • Double the recipe. Use a very large platter or 2 platters.
  • Arrange the salad in stacks. Place a slice of tomato on the bottom of a salad plate and then a dollop of relish. Repeat 1 more time.

Serves 6-8 people