One of the easiest cuts and something ideal for a special occasion like Christmas is duck breast. You can cook it in bulk and it makes a nice change from chicken and individual serves means that you need not embarrass yourself by your ham-fisted carving efforts on a whole bird (okay maybe that is just me then). These seared duck breasts are paired with a white cherry brandy sauce (that can be made ahead of time) and one of the best results out of cooking duck breast: duck fat hasselback potatoes!
Every year, I try to predict what people will want. In a non scientific way of course. There are no think tanks or focus groups. And every year I wonder whether there will be something around Christmas time that everyone falls in love with and serves. Then I realise that that is probably futile in terms of food because people tend to go traditional or modern which leaves everything up for grabs.
I made this duck because I saw duck breasts on special and we had just bought a kilo of white cherries. Having only roasted a whole duck, I was relieved to see that duck breast actually really easy to make. It's just searing it skin-down in a pan and then cooking it in the same pan or placing it in the oven. Because Christmas can often involve a lot of people, I figured I would test out the oven version making it easier for those of you that want to cater for a lot of people and a frypan pan full of duck breasts isn't perhaps as practical as a baking tray.
The sauce is a cinch and can be done ahead of time. Duck does so well with sweet fruity sauces and cherries are in abundance here. If you're out of cherry season you can substitute them with dried cherries, jarred sour cherries or other red fruit or oranges. And because there was a surfeit of duck fat rendered from these breasts you know what the best thing to do with them is right? That's right, duck fat potatoes! But I wanted to make these even more delicious so I made duck fat hasselback potatoes!
I think that perhaps predicting popular items is more relevant for the Christmas toy industry. Mr NQN told me about the runaway hit this Christmas as far as toys go. Sold out all across the world is the "Pie To The Face" which looks like so much fun. Like Russian Roulette of pies you turn the lever and either luck or misfortune gets you a pie in the face! It sounds enormously fun and Christmas is definitely a time for fun and relaxation!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is on your Christmas table this year? And would you enjoy the Pie To The Face game?
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Duck Breast with White Cherry Brandy Sauce and Rosemary
An Original Recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 10 minutes (plus overnight resting time if you have it)
Cooking time: 10-18 minutes
- 4 duck breasts (about 200g/7ozs. each), skin scored in a diamond pattern (but don't cut all the way through)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 golden eschallots, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
- 300g/10.6ozs white cherries, pitted
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup brandy
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 Dutch cream potatoes
- 1/3 cup duck fat
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 220C/440F and line two baking trays with parchment. If you have time beforehand, wash and dry the duck breasts well, especially the skin, patting it dry with paper towels and then leave uncovered in the fridge skin side up overnight.
Step 2 - Wash the potatoes well (I use a vegetable scrubber but leave the skin on). Cut little indents a few mimimetres apart from each other but not cutting down to the bottom of the potato. Melt the duck fat and place on the baking tray and brush a generous amount of duck fat on the outside of the potatoes. Roast for 30 minutes, then turn over and brush again and roast for another 30 minutes. These were large potatoes so I roasted them for a total of 1 hour 25 minutes.
Step 3 - When your potatoes have about 30 minutes to go, heat a frypan without oil on high heat. You can save the duck fat for later. Season the duck breast with salt and pepper. Place the duck salted skin side down and sear for 3-4 minutes. Then place on the other prepared tray and put in the oven but knock down the heat to 200C/400F and roast for the following times depending on how done you want your duck (rare=10 minutes, medium=15 minutes and well done=18 minutes). The potatoes will be fine on this temperature.
Step 4 - Make the white cherry sauce. You can place it in the saucepan that you used to cook the duck (just drain of the duck fat first as there is quite a lot). Add the butter and oil and then saute the eschallots and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Add the cherries, chicken stock and brandy and simmer for 10 minutes until the cherries become soft.
Step 5 - When the duck is ready, rest for 10 minutes under a foil tent. Season the potatoes and then serve the duck with the cherry sauce.