Duck, Duck, Delish!

Braised Duck with Pinot Noir, Cherry Tomatoes and Grapes~

Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for us to have duck for dinner. While it certainly wasn’t a main staple, duck was occasionally served on Sunday or a holiday, like Christmas—partially due to the fact that my mom’s dad (“Grandpa” to us kids) hunted duck and rabbit (which we also sporadically dined on.)

Fast forward many decades and it’s not uncommon while we’re dining out for Russ to select duck as an entree, but for some reason, not so much me. I think the last time I ordered it was for my birthday a few years ago at Agricola in Princeton—and that dinner was divine!

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Duck Two Ways entree at Agricola.

Duck doesn’t make its way into our kitchen too often, however lately, we’ve been envisioning cooking the bird for a Sunday meal, so we finally made the commitment. Unfortunately for us, our supermarket was out of stock—fresh and frozen—which put a serious dent into our meal plans 😦 So I put in an order for the following week…

Don’t fear the duck. Forget all those stereotypes about stringy, greasy and gamy birds. Chefs and foodies say duck doesn’t deserve its bad reputation, you just need to know how to prepare it properly. Respect the duck. In other words, don’t cook it like chicken. That’s a typical mistake for newbies, and one that prompts kitchen disasters. On the other hand, this recipe is simple enough even for the fledgling chef.

Intent on cooking the whole bird, Food & Wine showcased Braised Duck with Pinot Noir, Cherry Tomatoes and Grapes—sort of a cousin to coq au vin—which seemed like a winning combination. In the end, the cooked duck is split and broiled after braising to crisp the skin.

My mom’s roasted ducks were always pierced periodically throughout the cooking process to render the fat slowly. This recipe does not call for that procedure so I was somewhat skeptical, but figured if it was rated 5-star in Food & Wine, who was I to second-guess?

BTW, there is no white meat on a duck, even the breast is dark meat.

Now what to serve with it? Ever heard of Colcannon? Me neither. Colcannon traditionally combines mashed potato and cabbage, but there are as many versions as there are cooks in Ireland. This one uses softened and crunchy cabbage, as well as garlic and leeks for extra depth. (Great idea for St. Patty’s Day!) Our veggie side was Bourbon-Glazed Carrots, which added a nice pop of color as well as a sweet-savory note.

The following photos show the different stages of the duck as it is prepared and cooked:

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Russ salts the bird inside and out.

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After resting for 30 minutes, the salted bird is added, breast side down, to the cast iron pot with a bottle of pinot noir, peppercorns, bay leaf and garlic.

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After 20 minutes the duck is ready to turn onto its back.

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With breast side up, it is now ready for another 20 minutes in the oven.

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Tomatoes and black grapes are added for the last 45 minutes at a lower 300 degree heat.

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Russ cuts the duck in half to prepare it for the broiler.

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The duck emerges golden brown from several minutes under the broiler.

Duck Entree Ingredients

  • One 5-pound duck, giblets removed
  • Salt
  • One 750-milliliter bottle Pinot Noir
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound red or black seedless grapes, stems discarded

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the duck inside and out with salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Set the duck, breast side down, in a very large enameled cast-iron casserole. Pour the wine on top and add the peppercorns, garlic and bay leaf. Braise the duck uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes, until it starts to brown. Turn the duck breast side up, sprinkle with salt and add the tomatoes and grapes. Braise uncovered for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°. Cover the casserole and braise the duck for about 45 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh registers 160°.
  3. Transfer the duck to a rimmed baking sheet. Strain the pan juices into a saucepan; reserve the tomatoes and grapes and discard the remaining solids. Skim off the fat and boil the juices until reduced to 1 cup, 20 minutes. (It was more like 40 minutes for us to reduce to 1 cup.) Add the cherry tomatoes and grapes; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Preheat the broiler. Using poultry shears or a large, sharp knife, cut the duck in half. Arrange the duck halves on the baking sheet, skin side up. Broil the duck 6 inches from the heat for about 4 minutes, rotating the pan as necessary, until the skin is crisp. Carve the duck and serve with the pan sauce.

Duck Recipe By Andreas Viestad

This group of photos depicts the sauce in progress:

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After the solids are removed from the liquid, it is added to a fat separator.

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The liquid simmers for 20-40 minutes to reduce down to one cup.

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The cooked tomatoes and grapes are added back to the reduced sauce.

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The unbelievably tasty sauce is plated in a bowl for serving at the table.

Cooking Notes:

A braised dish won’t render the skin crispy, so that’s why you need to put it under the broiler at the end. But while it will brown and crisp the skin, it won’t be “crispy.” More than likely you’ll want to remove the fatty skin from the succulent breast meat.

You might want to brush up on how to actually carve a duck before you attempt it. Their anatomy is very different from a chicken, as Russ can attest!

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The complete meal of braised duck, colcannon and bourbon-glazed carrots.

COLCANNON

Ingredients

  • 5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts only, sliced in half lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups (packed) shredded savoy cabbage (from about ¼ large head), divided
  • cups milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced

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Start sautéeing the sliced leeks while the potatoes finish cooking.

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Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them.

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Before adding the milk and cream, make sure the leeks and garlic are starting to brown.

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Bring the milk and leek mixture to a simmer before adding the potatoes.

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Start mashing the potatoes with a masher. The longer you do it, the creamier they’ll be.

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Top the colcannon with butter and sliced scallions.

Directions

  1. Cover potatoes with water in a small pot; season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until a paring knife slides easily through the flesh, 30–40 minutes. Drain, let cool slightly, and peel.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and leeks are just beginning to brown around the edges, about 3 minutes longer.
  3. Add 1 cup cabbage and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add milk and cream and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add potatoes and remaining 1 cup cabbage, then coarsely mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer colcannon to a large serving bowl. Top with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and sprinkle with scallion.

Recipe by Chris Morocco of Bon Appétit

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