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Herb-Rubbed Duck with
Tart Cherry and Sage Sauce



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Herb-Rubbed Duck with
Tart Cherry and Sage Sauce

Herbfarm Cookbook:
A Guide to the Vivid
Flavors of Fresh Herbs

by Jerry Traunfeld.  Reprinted by permission of Scribner,
a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

"When the weather turns chilly, a dinner of perfectly cooked duck, with crispy
skin, rosy succulent meat, and a balanced fruity sauce, is something to dream
about. This duck dish delivers all these things. It calls for whole ducks which
can be found fresh or frozen in most supermarkets for a price per pound not
much more than chicken. The breast and leg meat are removed from the carcass
and marinated. The carcass is made into stock, strained, and boiled down into a
rich sauce. When it's time to cook the duck, the legs are baked in the oven until
fully cooked, tender, and crispy, and the breasts are sautéed on top of the stove
until the skin crisps but the meat is still rosy. If you are not confident cutting
up the duck yourself, buy a fresh duck from a butcher, who will cut it for you.
Don't let the many steps scare you off. The result is well worth it, and you can
do much of the work the day ahead.

The day before, or the morning of serving day: Cut up the duck and
marinate it; make the duck stock (3 hours); and strain the stock and boil it
down to make the sauce (1 hour).
45 minutes before serving: Begin cooking the duck legs; reheat the sauce.
20 minutes before serving
: Begin cooking the duck breasts.
5 minutes before serving: Allow the duck to rest, then slice and serve.

Makes 4 very generous servings or 6 to 8 servings
when accompanied by other courses.

Herb Rub:
6 fresh bay laurel leaves, or 2 dried
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons fresh English thyme leaves
4 teaspoons juniper berries
Thinly sliced zest of 1/2 orange
(removed with a zester)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 whole 5-pound ducks, Peking or Muscovy

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 rib celery, coarsely, chopped
6 3-inch sprigs fresh English thyme
2 bay laurel leaves, fresh or dried

2 cups full-bodied red wine, such as
Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
(about 1/3 cup)
1 cup dried tart cherries (* see Note)
[Dried cranberries may be substituted.]
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh English thyme
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Herb rub. If using fresh bay leaves, pull out the center veins. Combine
all the ingredients for the herb rub in a spice mill or blender and grind
to a coarse paste.
2. Marinating the duck. Cut up the ducks by removing the 2 legs and the
2 boneless breasts (with skin) from each bird. Reserve the necks and carcasses. Score the skin on the breasts by drawing a very sharp knife
across the skin in a diagonal crisscross pattern, 4 or 5 lines in each di-
rection. Be careful to cut only into the skin and not into the flesh.
This helps render the fat quickly when the breasts are cooked. Rub the
duck breasts and legs with the herb paste as evenly as you can, rubbing
some inside the scored cuts. Put them in a medium bowl, cover, and let
marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or as long as 24 hours.
3. Stock. Cut the wings off the duck carcasses, remove as much skin and
fat as comes off easily, and cut the carcasses in half (you can bend them
until they snap, then cut between bones, or use a cleaver). You should
now have 4 wings, 4 pieces of carcass, and 2 necks. Heat the oil in a
large (6- to 8-quart) heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add these 10
pieces to the pot and brown them for 10 to 12 minutes, turning once or
twice. This step is important for building flavor in the stock but not all
of the surfaces need to be evenly brown. Pour off the fat that has ac- cumulated in the pan, then pour in enough cold water to barely cover
the bones. Bring the stock to a boil, turn the heat to very low, and
skim off any fat or foam that rises to the surface. Add the onion,
carrot, celery, thyme, and bay leaves and gently simmer uncovered
for 2 to 3 hours.
4. Sauce. Strain the stock, discard the bones, and return the stock to the
pot. Add the wine, shallot, and cherries. Boil the sauce until it is thick-
ened and reduced to about 2 cups, 45 to 60 minutes. (The sauce can be
made a day ahead and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
5. Roasting the legs. Preheat the oven to 425°F. About 45 minutes be-
fore serving, heat a large (10- to 12-inch) ovenproof skillet (cast iron
works well) over medium-high heat. Pour in a film of vegetable oil
and heat. Add the duck legs skin side down and cook until the skin
side browns, 4 to 5 minutes. Without turning the legs over, put the
pan in the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the duck legs and
continue to roast until the skin is very brown and crisp and the meat
is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes longer. Re-
move them from the oven and let rest on a plate in a warm spot.
6. Sautéeing the breasts. When the legs have been in the oven for 20 minutes, begin to cook the breasts. Pour a thin film of oil into another
large (12-inch) skillet and heat it over medium heat until hot. Add the
duck breasts skin side down, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let
cook slowly and undisturbed. After 5 minutes, about 1/2 inch of fat
will have rendered into the pan, which will help render the remaining
fat from under the skin. Continue to cook the breasts until the skin is
very brown and crisp, another 5 to 10 minutes. If the rendered fat rises
above the level of the skin and the duck meat begins to be submerged,
pour some of it off into a small bowl. This will prevent the breast meat
from overcooking before the skin is crisp. When the skin is crisp but
not blackened, turn the breasts over and cook just 1 minute for rare
or 2 to 5 minutes for medium-rare to medium. The meat should feel
firm but still springy and an instant-read thermometer inserted hori-
zontally into the breast should register 120 to 125 degrees F for rare,
130 to 135 degrees F for medium-rare to medium. The temperature
will continue to rise about 10° as they rest. Transfer them to the plate
with the legs and let them sit on the back of the stove for 4 to 5
minutes before carving.
7. Finishing. Bring the sauce to a simmer and stir in the chopped sage, thyme, and balsamic vinegar. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Arrange the duck legs on a warmed platter or individual plates.
Using a sharp thin knife, slice the breasts on a diagonal 3/8 inch thick
and arrange the slices in a fan shape leaning against the legs. Pour the
sauce over and around the duck.

Resembling giant raisins, sweet and sour varieties of dried cherries
from Yakima Valley in Washington are exciting and relatively new
ingredients. Dried sweet cherries have a prunelike flavor, but the tart
(sour or pie) cherries, which are usually processed with sugar, have a
brilliant tangy flavor. When simmered with wine and duck stock, they
make a balanced, savory, and full-flavored sauce that plays beautifully
off the crispy citrus-rubbed duck in this recipe.

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