I've been shirking the blog terribly, letting it go to seed as we race about at work and try to soak up the waning sunshine in the intervening hours.
The turning of the season always leaves me feeling a little out of sorts. It's almost imperceptible as it happens, but suddenly the length and warmth of the days begin to slip away and prepare the garden, fields and mountainside for winter hibernation.
Of course, there's so much to enjoy about the early fall, too: turning leaves, the smell of woodsmoke in the air and apple picking never fail to perk me up.
In this case, one of those little pleasures is pairing some of the last ripe summer fruits with autumnal game.
Unfortunately for ducks, they have succulent, flavorful meat and skin that, when properly cooked, is like thick, crispy bacon. So, with apologies to Plucky, Daffy, Darkwing, and Donald, you definitely should try it if you haven't already.
The important part of cooking a duck is the skin, one must prick and score the skin so the fat can render out. Done wrong, it's rubbery, slimy and utterly unappealing. Done right, it tastes positively addictive.
While I've come to take it for granted, Williamsport residents should know that our Wegmans makes us the envy of every out-of-state friend I have.
In addition to stocking some of my favorites like edible flowers, passionfruit and rose water, they now feature a case entirely filled with less common meats. Duck breasts, venison steaks, bison burgers and guinea fowl wait all trussed up for the taking. Those with hunters in the family might not need to wonder about where to get duck breasts, the rest of us have the grocery.
Demi glace is a rich stock made from vast quantities of roasted beef and veal bones and laboriously boiled down over 24 hours or more into a dark, voluptuously savory liquid that forms the basis for a number of French sauces.
As much fun as that sounds, I typically take the easy way out; reconstituting premade demi glace gel with hot water, stock or wine.
With this handy shortcut, one need only briefly caramelize some shallots for their sweet, oniony perfume, fortify the sauce with creamy butter and slip in the juicy, sweet-tart cherries to warm through.
Pan roasted duck with cherry demi glace
Adapted from Chez Pascal, Providence, R.I.
2 duck breasts, about 16 ounces each
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
6 ounces sherry or marsala wine
1.5 ounces beef demi glace concentrate (aisle 10B at Wegmans)
2 tablespoons butter
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup tart black cherries, stemmed, halved and pitted
Preheat oven to 450F, also while warming a heavy, oven-safe skillet on a burner to medium heat.
Pat the duck breasts dry with paper towels, then use a sharp knife to score the duck skin in a close cross-hatch pattern, cutting into, but not all the way through, the skin. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
Cook the duck breasts, skin side down, until the fat has rendered out and the skin has turned crisp and golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Flip the breasts and place the skillet into the oven to roast through, about 5 minutes for medium rare, 10 for well done.
Remove the duck breasts to a warmed plate and tent with foil to rest, at least 15 minutes. Drain all but 1 tbs of the fat from the pan (save this for roasting vegetables and potatoes) and return to the burner.
Saute the shallots over medium heat until softened, then add the sherry and demi glace, whisking until dissolved.
Simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, then melt in the butter and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Stir in the cherries and remove from the heat.
While the cherries warm through, slice and plate the duck, topping with generous spoonfuls of cherry demi glace. Serves 4.
GourmetGents is a local cooking blog written by James Pereira and Aaron Peterson of Montoursville.
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