I have emerged from the “labyrinthine foliage of scrubby bushes and knotted vines” with 4 cups of fresh, glittering, juicy thimbleberries! By the time I’m back in the kitchen that amount has shrunk by half (Is there a hole in the container? Why are my fingers all red? Alright… just one more!) I haven’t got enough to make a traditional jam or preserve, and no ice cream either, so I’ll make a savoury sauce instead. The slightly sweet and sharply tannic flavour of the berries will complement the luxurious crispy/fattiness of my favourite ingredient… Duck! A hot pan, butter, shallots, a splash of vinegar, berries, what a classic entree!
Duck is more of a late autumn/winter protein, but should be locally available fresh or frozen. Try to find large (about 1″ thick) duck breasts with fat and skin still attached, or buy whole ducks that look like they’ve got the goods. Avoid utillity-grade ducks for breast meat, they frequently disappoint.
The garden is exploding with the season’s first big harvest of root veg! A simple little salad of julienned radishes and wafer-thin fennel tossed in lemon juice will give a refreshing counterpoint to all that delicious duck fat and butter.
Seared Duck Breast with Thimbleberry Sauce
For The Duck :
- 2 Boneless Muscovy Duck Breasts (cleaned, skin left on, each weighing approx. 340g each or 3/4 lb.)
- 1 medium Shallot (finely chopped)
- 1 Garlic Clove (finely chopped)
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 1/4 cup (about 60ml) Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/2 cup (118 ml) Chicken or (pref.) Duck Stock
- 1/2 Tsp. Fresh Sage (finely chopped)
- 1 1/2 cups (354ml) Thimbleberries (washed and well drained)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Butter
For The Shaved Fennel and Radish Salad:
- 2 medium scallions (30g)
- 1/2 medium-sized Fennel Bulb (sliced thin with a knife, or on a mandoline, about 200g)
- 3-4 small Radishes (julienne, red ones, black ones, white, get as many different colours from the garden as you can)
- 20g Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley (finely chopped)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Lemon juice (7.5ml)
- 1/2 Tablespoon Mirin (7.5ml)
- 1 Tablespoon Sunflower Oil (or any lightly flavoured vegetable oil, about 14ml)
- Salt and White Pepper
For The Duck: (Preheat oven to 400°F)
1. Dry the duck breast and trim any excess fat from around the edges, leaving a nice little blanket over most of the breast’s surface. Take a crazy sharp knife and score the surface of the skin 1/2 ” apart making sure not to cut down into the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Fire up a dry saute pan on med-high heat and place the duck breast in skin-side down (don’t worry, the duck will release all the fat it needs to cook!). Sear that baby for about 4 mins. until golden brown, then turn and sear the other side 3 mins. Remove from the pan and place into a roasting tray skin-side up. Blast the oven from 400°F to Broiler and slide the duck in 4-6 inches from the heat. Broil for about 2 minutes, and keep you’re eye on it! We don’t want to burn it, just crisp the skin to caramelized perfection. Transfer duck to a cutting board and let rest while you get the sauce together.
(This recipe is aiming for the duck to be cooked medium-rare to maintain moisture and to give a nice contrast between soft meat and crisp skin. If you are unsure of eating medium-rare poultry, and wish to continue cooking the moisture out of your duck… that’s you’re business.)
3. Pour off all but 1 Tablespoon of fat from the pan you originally seared the duck in, and saute the shallots and garlic over med-high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring constantly until it dissolves, then splash in the balsamic vinegar. Turn the heat down and just let this sticky-sweet mess reduce down for a minute or two into a nice syrupy consistency. Add the stock and increase the heat, bringing it to a simmer. Plop! In go the sage and timbleberries to simmer for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a fine sieve into a temporary container. Skim off any excess fats that float to the surface of the sauce.
4. Clean out the saute pan and return to to a low heat. Pour the sauce back into the pan and get it hot enough to just barely simmer. Take it off direct heat and swirl the cold butter into the pan using a whisk. Keep it moving and the butter should melt ever-so gracefully into the sauce, finishing it perfectly.
5. Slice duck thinly on the bias with a sharp knife and serve with sauce and salad.
For The Shaved Fennel and Radish Salad:
1. Slice the scallions lengthwise as finely as possible and place into a container with water and a couple ice cubes for about 20 minutes (This will cause them to slightly curl into the funkiest shapes). Drain well, and toss scallions, fennel, radishes and parsley together in a medium-sized bowl.
2. Whisk together the lemon juice, mirin, and oil and season with salt ‘n pepper. Pour dressing over all that attractive looking root veg, toss and serve.
Music To Cook This To:
Afternoons In Stereo – Influences Vol. 1 | From the Archives (2012)