There’s something exotic and sexy to me about cooking duck at home. I don’t do it often, and usually when I do, it’s to roast a whole duck or two, the way my dad does at Thanksgiving. I almost always find myself drawn to ordering the duck at any high-end restaurant I visit, mostly just because of how infrequently I cook it at home. When I thumbed through my copy of S’Cook and found slabs of juicy duck breast with cherry compote staring back at me.
Ohhhh yeah, I thought to myself, using the same voice as the Kool-Aid Man. That is what I’m making. I imagined myself bursting through the walls of our kitchen, jolly and fat, holding two shimmering raw duck breasts. Of course, in that case, I’d probably also disappoint the crowds of sugar-amped kids waiting for their next hit of artificial sugary drink. Nothing to see here, folks — just a weird Asian woman holding two slabs of raw poultry.
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Like I mentioned earlier this week, S’Cook is a fabulous cookbook with lots of modern twists on classic French dishes, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Many of the recipes are complicated and require prep work to be spread out over a few days. In addition, the measurements, as I’ve mentioned before, are all presented in weights as opposed to volumes, which makes measuring out ingredients a little trickier. For example, this duck breast recipe calls for 7 ounces of milk and 1/3 ounce of butter (plus “a little extra for cooking the blinis”). I can eyeball a half a cup of milk or a couple of tablespoons of butter, but 1/3 ounce of butter? I’m stumped. Luckily, my trusty kitchen scale (you can get one here) took out a lot of the guesswork.
The one thing I really loved about the recipe (measurement challenges notwithstanding) was discovering how very easy it can be to prepare perfectly medium-rare, juicy duck breast. Chef Pic (the author of this cookbook) breaks down the cooking into searing in a hot pan, then sliding that pan into a preheated 350-degree oven for 7-8 minutes. I opted for 7 minutes, just to make sure I didn’t overcook my duck. Seriously, nothing causes me more anxiety than overcooked meat. I feel like I’m letting the team down.
Happily, in this case, Chef Pic’s method won. My duck breast, after resting for a few minutes, sliced up and revealed itself to be a perfect medium rare. I drizzled the cherry compote, tart and sweet with balsamic vinegar, next to my slices of duck breast. The result was a juicy, hearty concoction of warm fruit and tender duck. The blinis were light and fluffy, a totally logical accompaniment to a dish that might otherwise be too heavy.
Ohhhh, yeah …
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- 4 7-ounce duck breasts
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- ½ tablespoon butter, plus more for cooking the blinis
- 7 ounces (7/8ths cups) milk
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup fresh corn
- 2 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted and stemmed
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Prep the duck breasts by removing any stray nerves or sinews, then score the skin and fat in a crisscross pattern with a knife. Refrigerate while cooking the compote and blinis.
- Make the blinis: combine the flour, eggs, butter, milk, walnut oil and salt into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh colander. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, and fold into the batter along with the corn just before cooking. Heat the olive oil and about a tablespoon of butter in a large, flat (nonstick) pan over medium heat. Using a tablespoon, drop small rounds of batter onto the pan and cook for approximately 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown. Repeat, cooking blinis in batches. Cool and cover lightly with a paper towel.
- Make the compote: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cherries and saute for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and reduce heat to low, cooking until cherries are soft (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and swirl in second tablespoon of butter. Cover and set aside.
- Remove duck breasts from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper. Heat a tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof skillet. Add duck breasts, skin side down, and sear for 2 minutes. Flip duck breasts and sear for another 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, keeping duck breasts skin-side up, and immediately transfer to oven.
- Cook for another 7-8 minutes in the oven, then remove the skillet from the oven, leaving the duck breasts in the pan. Let the duck breasts rest for 4-5 minutes, then remove to a platter and slice. Drizzle cherry compote over the duck and add the blinis. Serve immediately.