I love duck, so it was with much delight that I anticipated the week that the fowl would be the featured item during one of the six classes during session two of Chef Charles Missick’s Simply Better Gourmet Institute’s Gourmet Cooking II class. Unlike some of my classmates, I was well-versed in duck, having cooked it a number of times over the years at home (although not as often as I would like, and not in recent times), and it was one of my must-enjoy menu items at the former Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s version of the Café Martinique (which, sadly to say, I will now have to travel abroad to enjoy).
So, when it came to the week duck was featured, I was super excited.
But on this weekend to celebrate mothers, I thought to share Chef Missick’s super easy duck with cherries and peaches recipe with readers of The Nassau Guardian who don’t want to fight to get into a restaurant, but will instead opt to take to their kitchen and are looking to prepare a dish that’s out of the ordinary, and will impress that special mother in their life.
Missick’s duck with cherries, peaches and grilled asparagus is a fancy-looking dish that is super easy to make, impressive to behold and delicious. (Trust me, this dish is so simple, and so easy, it’s going to become a staple in your repertoire).
Now I’ve roasted a whole duck in the past, and I’ve even cooked duck breasts, but in this recent class, the chef pulled out a whole duck, complete with the neck and webbed feet intact (the first time I’d seen it like this, which he said is “naked”), which he then proceeded to demonstrate how to break down – to remove the breasts and legs, and how to cook them to golden perfection and a beautifully composed plate.
Then it was time for me and my fellow class participants to cook our ducks. As far as I was concerned, the whole duck that the chef had pulled out for demonstration purposes was for show and tell only and he would pull out perfectly packaged duck breasts and thighs for us to work on. That was not to be. We were taken off guard when each received a whole duck – with all of its appendages attached – that we had to butcher. Chef Missick was going to make us work for the glory of indulging in that rich-tasting meat that comprised a dish that’s so simple, but amazingly delicious. (Now take into consideration, a couple of people in my small six-person class had never seen duck, much less tasted it, so for them, that class was quite an experience).
As the classes are always fun while being educational at the same time, I nicknamed my duck “Clara” – but I had work to do, so I proceeded to butcher her, because, in the end, there was cooking to be done and a delicious meal to be had as the end result. We reserved the wing tips and feet to use in a sauce to be served with the duck.
After removing the breasts and thighs, we scored the fat, being careful not to cut into the meat, and poked the skin all over, which would allow the fat to render, which you want. We seasoned the duck portions generously with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, per Chef Missick’s instruction. Then we proceeded to place the duck pieces skin-side-down into a smoking hot pan without oil, along with wing tips and feet, to crisp the outside, while allowing the fat to render out at the same time without burning the meat. It was at this point that the chef encouraged us to add even more fresh cracked black pepper, because he said you can never have too much cracked black pepper on duck. Once the skin turned golden and crisped without burning, we poured off the rendered fat (don’t discard that luscious, lovely fat that accumulates – reserve for another use like duck fat fries), flipped the meat and browned on the second side, before we placed the breasts and thighs into a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, after again draining the duck fat.
After the first 15 minutes we removed the breasts and returned the thighs back into the oven for an additional 15 minutes as they take a little longer to cook.
Duck should be cooked to a medium, so you want a pinkish center, not a dull gray.
While the duck meat cooked we made the cherry sauce, which ideally should be made with Griotte (French word for Morello cherry) cherries (a type of sour cherry) if you can find it. You can substitute Griotte cherries with the best sour cherry you can find in a can.
We served the duck with grilled asparagus and peaches. The rich-tasting meat of the duck lent itself well to the sweetness of the fruit. It was a dish everyone in my family loved.
To make the sauce: Finely chop red onion. After breasts and thighs have been removed from pan, add onions to wing tips and foot bones in pan, sweat onions, deglaze with blackcurrant or blackberry liqueur, flambe. Add a little chicken stock to the pan, then a spoonful of cherry juice and a few cherries, and a teaspoon of cornstarch to thicken. Remove pan from heat, then add a small piece of butter to stop a skin from forming on sauce.
For the asparagus: Blanch asparagus, then drizzle with olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper and salt, and grill on a stovetop grill pan.
For the peaches: Cut fresh peaches in half, de-seed and cut into fingers not cutting straight through so they remain attached; rub the peaches with butter, then confectioner’s sugar, and place peaches cut-side-down into a 350-degree oven for approximately 15 minutes to brown.
To plate: Place the asparagus on a plate, slice the duck breast and place on top of the asparagus; place the duck thighs on the side, and top the breasts with the fanned out grilled peaches.
This is a dish that will seriously impress the special mother in your life.
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.