Sunday 22 July
Where yesterday's dinner originated from what we had in the garden, today's came from what we found at Findlay market: Indiana cantaloupes, Bing cherries, and a duck.
We started the meal with prosciutto melone, or in this case the aforementioned cantaloupe, adorned with some shavings of Schad's ham that we had around.
Duck and fruit is a classic combo, and we had duck and cherries. We broke down the duck as usual: breasts for one meal, legs for another, carcass to make stock (which we did as we cooked the breasts).
The recipe we used was intriguing, with an unusual sauce. Since it was new, we followed it very closely. So here it is:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped red bell pepper (1/2 medium)
1 plum tomato, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 1/4 lb dark sweet cherries such as Bing, quartered and pitted (3 cups)
2 (3/4-lb) boneless Moulard duck breasts with skin*
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or chives
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer
Heat oil in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, garlic, and shallot, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 7 minutes.
Add tomato paste, black pepper, cumin, hot pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in wine, vinegar (to taste), and sugar and simmer 1 minute. Stir in mustard, 1 1/2 cups cherries, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer 1 minute.
Purée mixture in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute (use caution when blending hot liquids). Force cherry sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and transfer 1/4 cup sauce to a small bowl for glazing duck.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Score duck skin in a crosshatch pattern with a small sharp knife and season duck all over with salt and pepper.
Heat water in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over low heat until hot, then add duck, skin side down. Cook duck, uncovered, over low heat, without turning, until most of fat is rendered and skin is golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Transfer duck to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Brush duck all over with cherry sauce from bowl and return to skillet, skin side up.
Roast duck in oven until thermometer registers 135°F, about 8 minutes for medium-rare.
Transfer duck to a cutting board and set skillet aside. Let duck stand, loosely covered with foil, 10 minutes.
Immediately after covering duck, carefully pour off any fat from skillet, leaving any brown bits, and add remaining cherry sauce, stirring and scraping up any brown bits. Add remaining 1 1/2 cups cherries. (Cherries will lose flavor if cooked; heat from skillet will warm sauce.)
Holding a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle, cut duck into slices. Sprinkle with chopped herbs and serve with cherry sauce.
Note that the amount of curious flavorings (cumin, mustard, etc.) are quite subtle, and the combo of tomato and cherries works out much better than we originally thought. The use of both cooked cherries (in the glaze) and fresh cherries added at the last minute is also a good touch.
One change we'd recommend: The method of cooking the breast skin down in a tad of water does an excellent job of rendering off some of the duck fat, but leaves the skin too chewy. So instead of roasting in the oven for the final few minutes (which can also too rapidly run up the internal temp.), broil it to crisp the skin.