Each autumn growing up, I remember my dad’s excitement for duck hunting season. I also remember my mom being intimidated by having to cook duck, and my dreading eating the oily fowl.
Now that I’m older, I’ve rediscovered it and I’ve discovered how to properly cook a duck breast. Since then, this dish has become one of my all-time favorites. It is frequently the main course when I’m throwing a dinner party. It is easy enough for a weeknight meal and elegant enough for a special occasion.
The cinnamon-cherry sauce is wonderful served over nearly anything. My favorites being spooned warm over a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt or over whole-wheat pancakes (look for the recipe coming soon).
- 1 pound fresh cherries, pitted and halved
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups water
- 2 duck breasts
- Freshly ground black pepper
- To make the cinnamon-cherry sauce, combine the cherries, cinnamon sticks and water in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the cherries begin to break down and form a sauce, about 40 minutes. Add additional water, if needed. Remove cinnamon sticks.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Score the fat on the breasts by drawing a very sharp knife across the skin in a diagonal crisscross pattern, at least 4 or 5 lines in each direction. Be careful to cut only into the fat and not into the flesh. This helps render the fat quickly when the breasts are cooked. Season flesh side with salt and pepper.
- Heat a large oven-proof sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down. Slowly render the fat and brown the skin, pouring the fat out of the pan fairly frequently, about 15 minutes. This will prevent the duck from tasting oily. When the majority of the fat has cooked away and the skin is browned and crispy, turn the breasts over and quickly brown the flesh side. Transfer sauté pan to the oven and roast for about 6 minutes, or until medium-rare. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice duck breasts width-wise into ½-inch thick slices. Top with the warmed cherry sauce.
- Prepare Ahead: The cinnamon-cherry sauce can be made up to one week in advance. Cool completely and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Reheat gently.