As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I’ve neglected my blog somewhat over the past couple of weeks, mostly on account of Graduation and my laptop’s general unhelpfulness. However, I intend to get my blogging back on track and post more regularly once again. Before I launch into today’s post though, I have some related and exciting news to share. I was asked a while ago by Visit St Andrews to write a guest post about the St Andrews Farmers’ Market, and after some serious disorganisation on my part and a distinct lack of cooperation on the part of my laptop, I finally sorted that out and it was published on Friday! Do forgive me for being slightly over-enthusiastic about this, but it’s my first ever guest post!!
When I was at the Farmers’ Market a few weeks ago, one of the stalls had some wonderful-looking duck breasts. Now, I love duck, so I was seriously tempted, though I had no special occasion coming up that would justify buying duck and I was going down to Edinburgh for a couple of days anyway, so there wasn’t much point in buying lots of meat. And then I realised that I could freeze them until an occasion presented itself. I’m awfully good at justifying purchases if I really want them. It’s a bit of an issue in my life. Anyway, Craig crashed my sofa for a few days at the start of Grad Week, and that seemed as good a reason as any to defrost the duck (well, that and the fact that I have to clear out my freezer since I’m moving out in less than a week). Once they’d defrosted, I realised that I’ve never actually cooked duck before. Oh dear.
After a quick trawl through all my recipe books and an online search, we decided on a basic cherry and port sauce to go with the duck, with some green beans on the side. Simple but delicious. In theory. Just before dinner time, we ended up stopping off in the Russell Hotel bar on the corner of my street because it happens to be halfway between home and wherever we’d just been and it was pouring with rain (I told you I was good at justifying things). We stole the idea of adding kirsch from their Graduation menu, and decided that a gratin dauphinois would be a wonderful addition to the meal. Which it was, but it also takes forever to cook, so I think we didn’t end up eating until around 20h30 or something silly like that. Woops. The duck also turned out to have been plucked slightly oddly so that the ends of some of the quills were still stuck in the skin and we couldn’t get them out, so we had to cut the skin off before eating (hardly the end of the world, but frustrating nonetheless). We also got so distracted by the port and the duck that we may or may not have completely forgotten about the green beans. Woops. I also accidentally over-cooked the duck so it was a bit on the dry side (sorry Craig!!). Major woops. The sauce however, was delicious, and in my opinion, well worth the wait. So even though I ruined the duck a bit, it wasn’t all bad, thankfully!
Seared duck breasts with a cherry & port sauce
Adapted from The Times Online
I’ve slightly reduced the cooking times for the duck since mine turned out slightly dry, but this also depends on your preferences for how you like your meat cooked. I’d suggest using these as guidelines more than times set in stone. The sauce can be prepared beforehand, except for the final stage of adding the butter. I served this with a gratin dauphinois, which was utterly delicious.
2 x 225g duck breasts
Freshly ground pepper
For the sauce:
Large sprig of rosemary
150g fresh cherries
10g cold butter, cubed
1. Place the port, kirsch and rosemary sprig in a medium saucepan, and bring to the boil. Allow to bubble for 10-15 mins (depending on how much you’d like to reduce your sauce). Meanwhile, stone and halve all the cherries. Set aside.
2. Whilst the sauce is starting to cook, score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife and rub well with seasoning. Heat a frying pan over low heat (do not add any butter or oil) and once hot, add the duck breasts skin-side down. Leave for 8-10 mins until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the fat has nearly all been extracted. Increase the heat slightly and turn the duck breasts over and cook for a further 2-3 mins (apparently the meat should feel springy when pressed if you want it cooked to medium). Remove to a warm plate and allow to rest for 5 mins.
3. Once the sauce has been bubbling for 10-15 mins, remove the sprig of rosemary and add the halve cherries, allowing to simmer for a further 5-10 mins (stop here if preparing the sauce in advance, then when required, gently re-heat before adding the butter). Turn the heat down and whisk in the butter a cube at a time until the sauce is smooth and glossy. Season to taste.
4. Slice the duck breasts, fan out onto a serving plate (or individual plates), pour the cherry and port sauce over the top and serve.