Monday, December 6, 2010

Long Island Duck Breast and Tart Cherry Chutney for Christmas...

One of my favorite Christmas dinners is roasted duck with some kind of savory fruit sauce -- this year I'm planning to cook Long Island duck breasts and tart cherry chutney for the family. My husband loved the trial run for yesterday's Sunday dinner, and so did I -- it's a relatively easy recipe that's reminiscent of English and European holiday feasts. And, of course, made with mostly locally grown ingredients from Long Island and upstate.

I served the North Fork, Long Island Crescent Farms duck breast with a basic polenta using cornmeal from Farmers Ground mixed with a little butter and roasted acorn squash from the farmers market with a splash of Vermont maple syrup and dollop of local butter.
To prepare the duck for cooking, I scored both sides of the breasts. Scoring allows the fat to render and makes for a leaner meal and super crispy skin.
 The tart cherry chutney sauce was the star of show. Today, I made it with onions, garlic, red pepper, tomato paste, "Tart Cherry Stomp", a 100% fruit nectar from Red Jacket Orchards, frozen cherries, and spices, including dried red pepper flakes, cumin, salt and pepper. When the sauce was cooked through, I removed one third of it and pureed it in a blender until it was very smooth. I used the puree to glaze the duck and set aside the remaining sauce which I served along side the cooked bird.
After cooking the scored duck breast, skin side down in a heavy skillet over low heat, I removed all but one tablespoon of rendered fat (be careful it's very hot and there's a lot of it). Then, I spooned the tart cherry sauce glaze onto the breast and moved the heavy skillet to a 450 degree (F) oven for approximately 25 minutes to finish the breast.The color of the cherry glaze is a deep and regal red -- perfect for Christmas.
 When my meat thermometer reached 135 degrees, the breast was medium rare. I moved it to a carving board and let it sit for 5 minutes. A medium or well done breast will be less moist so be sure to check the temperature for a perfectly cooked and succulent meal. Carve on a diagonal and reserve the juices.

Duck Breast and Tart Cherry Chutney
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup chopped onion 
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste 
1/3 cup Tart Cherry Stomp or other brand of tart cherry juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 10-ounce bag of frozen cherries (Cascadian farms)
½ cup Golden Raisins
4 boneless duck breasts with skin (approximately 6 ounces each)

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Add onion, garlic, and spices stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and reduce heat to medium. Add red bell pepper until softened. Stir in tart cherry juice, vinegar and simmer over low heat. Stir in mustard and frozen cherries and continue to cook for about 6 more minutes. Shut off heat and let cool. Place 1/3 of the sauce into the jar of a blender and puree until very smooth (this will be used to glaze the duck). To finish the whole fruit chutney, add raisins. Can be prepared one day ahead.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Score duck skin in a crosshatch pattern with a small sharp knife and season duck with salt and pepper.

Heat an overproof skillet over medium heat until hot, then add duck, skin side down. Reduce heat and cook duck, uncovered, over low heat. Do not turn the duck. After about 25 minutes on a low heat, the fat will be rendered and the skin will be golden brown.  Transfer duck to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from skillet. Brush duck all over with tart cherry puree and return to skillet, skin side up.Roast duck in oven until thermometer registers 135°F, about 8 minutes for medium-rare. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving into slices.

Serve with heated or room temperature tart cherry chutney.

NOTE: This recipe was inspired by the Inaugural Luncheon served to Barack Obama in 2009 and at Abraham Lincoln's Inaugural Luncheon but is simplified and substitutes Tart Cherry Stomp for red wine.

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