For Valentine's, delectable duck

February 03, 1999|By Bev Bennett | Bev Bennett,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Duck breast is my idea of the perfect Valentine's Day entree. It sends an instant message to your sweetheart that you care enough to prepare something exceptional.

Duck has the reputation of being a messy, tricky bird. Overcook it and you've got a tough mess, to say nothing of the greasy cleanup. You have to really like someone to put up with that.

But what your partner doesn't have to know is that duck breasts are much easier to prepare. You don't have to take a course in dissection to prepare dinner. What's more, you'll find it conveniently packaged as boneless breasts for two or four in supermarkets and specialty-food stores.

Unlike a whole duck that requires considerable roasting time, you can grill boneless duck breast on top of the stove in minutes if you use a heavy-bottomed skillet or grill pan to create an even high heat.

To make a succulent duck entree, score the fat on the breast. Then mix a rub of ginger, cinnamon, chili powder, salt and pepper and work it into the skin. Drop the breast, skin side down, into a hot skillet. The fat will quickly melt into the skillet and prevent the meat from sticking. To tell if duck is done, press down on the breast with your finger. If the meat is springy, it's too rare. It should have some give, but still be on the firm side. When you cut into the breast, the meat should be pink-red, not raw.

Take a note from chefs when serving duck. Use a very sharp knife and thinly slice down the breast, making strips. I prefer to discard the fat before serving the duck, but that's an individual preference.

Round out the meat with Wild and Long-Grain Rice Pilaf and Cranberry and Dried Cherry Chutney.

Duck Breast with Cranberry and Dried Cherry Chutney

Serves 2

CHUTNEY:

1 large, peeled shallot

4 ( 1/4 -inch-thick) slices fresh ginger root

1 garlic clove

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup dried sweet cherries

1/4 cup sweet vermouth or apple juice

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

dash salt

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, optional

DUCK:

1 full duck breast (about 10 ounces)

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger

dash chili powder or finely crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To prepare chutney, mince together shallot, ginger root and garlic.

Heat oil in medium pan. Add shallot mixture and saute over low heat until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add cranberries, cherries and vermouth and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until cranberries pop and cherries soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in honey, lemon juice, salt and walnuts. Set aside.

To prepare duck, use very sharp knife and score skin down to flesh. In cup, mix together cinnamon, ginger, chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub mixture into both sides of duck.

Heat small, heavy-bottomed (preferably cast-iron) skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Add duck breast, skin side down, and cook over medium heat until skin is well browned, 5 minutes. Flip over and cook second side until flesh is firm to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes. Meat should be done to medium-rare stage.

Remove duck from skillet. Using sharp knife, slice duck / inch thick and arrange slices on platter. Reheat chutney, if necessary, and serve on the side.

Wild and Long-Grain Rice Pilaf

Serves 2

1/2 cup dried wild mushrooms (0.5-ounce package)

2 tablespoons dry vermouth or sherry

1 teaspoon butter

1/2 cup wild rice

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup long-grain rice

salt, freshly ground white pepper

Break mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Place in microwave-safe cup or bowl and stir in vermouth. Microwave on high (100 percent power) 1 minute to soften. Set aside.

Melt butter in medium pan. Add wild rice and saute 15 seconds over medium heat. Stir in chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 30 minutes. Add mushrooms and any remaining vermouth. Stir in long-grain rice. Cover and simmer until both rices are tender and liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pub Date: 02/03/99

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