Duck breasts with fresh figs (and the most delicious sauce!)
My culinary horizons expanded quite a bit as a by-product of startig my food blog to join the online baking group Tuesdays With Dorie, baking through Dorie Greenspan's wonderful book Baking From My Home to Yours. (My daughter ALE jokes that it's not fair that I waited until she left home before I began cooking and baking in earnest. Luckily we visit each other's kitchens often enough that we engage in marathon cooking/baking sessions together.) Although on a weekly basis there are still plenty of thrown-together meals at my home, I love to pull out my books, especially when there's a special occasion afoot.
And what a special occasion this is! Today is Dorie Greenspan's birthday, and in celebration a bunch of food bloggers are getting together to cook Dorie a virtual birthday meal. We're cooking from Dorie's new volume Around My French Table and we've got it all covered, from appetizers to desserts.
As soon as I learned of the virtual birthday dinner party, I knew I wanted to make a memorable main course for a very special birthday party. Two birthday parties, actually! I was cooking virtually for one birthday girl, Dorie, and also cooking really for another birthday girl, my daughter ALE, whose birthday is just two days before Dorie's. Duck breast happens to be one of ALE's favorite things so I zeroed right in on the recipe for Duck Breasts with Fresh Peaches on page 230. Sadly, down here in the Peach State peach season has ended, but Dorie gives a selection of alternate fruits, making it into a year-round recipe. I ended up cooking the duck breasts twice (once with pears and currants and once with fresh figs) and since there are two birthday honorees, I have double reasons to call this "Happy Birthday Happy Birthday Duck Breasts."
Here's the pear/currant version of the duck breast recipe. Sorry for the artificial light photo.
- Holly, of the blog phe.mom.enon, is publishing a roundup of this fabulous birthday dinner party for Dorie, so check out her post to click on each of the fantastic dishes - everything from appetizers to desserts - that bloggers have cooked up from Dorie's book!
- We have agreed not to publish the recipes from the book, so if you like what you see on our posts, I'd heartily recommend that you buy the book or request it from your library.
- Dorie specifies large duck breasts - 1 pound each - but also mentions that smaller ones can be used, as long as the total weight is around 2 pounds. I was able to locate the larger duck breast at my favorite specialty market, and used two.- The recipe's method is quite straigtforward. First the duck is seared, then placed in a warm oven to finish cooking while a simple pan sauce with fresh fruit is made on the stove top. Put the two together, garnish with fresh thyme, and voila!
- I made the mistake of using Asian pears, which I had on hand from my farm box. I realized too late that this was a crisp variety of pear which didn't soften as they cooked. Consequently the duck breasts got a tad overcooked in the warm oven while I waited for the pears to lose their curnch. This is a terrible thing to happen to beautiful duck breasts which had been browned to medium-rare perfection.
- The sauce, however, was delicious. I can see why Dorie loved it so much that she decided to find fruits other than peaches that would work with the recipe so that she could enjoy it all year. I think that Dorie would also love the fabulous pop of tart flavor from the currants I used. The rest of my family didn't seem to mind the barely-pink duck, but I was sad that Dorie's (and ALE's) birthday duck was overcooked.
- I really wanted this dish to look and taste perfect for Dorie, so I decided to make it again! Not much of a hardship, as we all love duck around here, and the recipe really is a speedy one to make. The second time I made the recipe with fresh figs. The duck breasts were from Whole Foods, and were the small version - each less than 1/2 pound - so I used five of them to get the 2 pounds needed for the recipe.- This time the recipe went off without a hitch. The figs softened nicely in short order (thanks, figs!) and almost before I knew it we had a lovely duck dinner. And the bonus? I cooked early enough that there was still a bit of natural light on my front porch when the dish was ready to serve.
It turns out that this recipe for duck breasts is not only elegant enough for a fancy birthday dinner, it's simple enough to prepare for a weekday dinner for the family. The sauce is lovely, and complements a wide variety of different fruit. Overall, I prefer cooking the larger duck breasts because I think it's (usually at least!) easier to get them browned properly while keeping the meat tender.
Happy Birthday, Dorie! Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipes with us!!
To see more Around My French Table goodness, check out the French Fridays with Dorie cooking group, where cooks worldwide prepare the featured weekly recipes from the book. You might even be tempted to join in (you don't even need a blog!)
The Tuesdays with Dorie baking group has been baking through Dorie's book Baking: From My Home to Yours for nearly 3 years. Stop by to check out the group's progress!