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Duck à l’orange might be more the famous of the fruit and duck pairings, but cherries work even better. The trick with cooking fresh cherries is to retain some of their bite, so rather than stewing them in the sauce, add them in at the last minute so they retain their firm texture and tart taste.
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes
4 x small duck breasts (about 160g each)
150ml whole milk
600ml chicken stock
150g coarse cornmeal
4 tbsp crème fraîche
100g fresh spinach
sea salt and black pepper
150ml red wine (approx. 1 small glass)
250ml chicken stock
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp honey
150g cherries, halved and stones removed
½ tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water
knob of butter
Preheat the oven to 160°c (fan). In the meantime make the polenta: place the milk and chicken stock into a pot. Bring to a boil. Slowly pour the cornmeal into the boiling liquid continuously stirring with a wooden spoon as it thickens. Turn the heat down to low. Stir at regular intervals to stop the polenta sticking. When the polenta starts to come away from the pan (about 15 minutes) and thicken to a mash potato consistency, stir in the crème fraîche and spinach. Taste for seasoning.
In the meantime, lightly score the skin of the duck breast with a sharp knife. Season the duck breasts with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a heavy based non-stick frying pan. Place the duck breast skin side down and gradually turn up the heat. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until most of the fat has rendered and the skin has become crisp and golden brown. Turnover and cook for another couple of minutes on the other side. Place the duck breast in a baking dish in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the duck breasts from the pan (do not wash the pan) and place the duck breasts in a warm place covering the flesh with aluminium foil to rest, but leaving the skin exposed.
To make the sauce, pour off the excess fat from the duck frying pan. Get the pan hot again. Add the red wine and let it bubble for a minute before adding the stock and bring it to a boil. Whisk the cornflour with the water and whisk it into the sauce. Continue to stir until the sauce has become thick and glossy (about 5 minutes). Add the red wine vinegar, honey and taste for seasoning. Take off the heat and stir in the cherries and butter.
Slice up the duck breast into thin slices (add any of the juices to the sauce). Place on a heap of creamy spinach polenta and spoon over plenty of the cherry sauce. Serve immediately.
The rendered duck fat is also excellent for roasting potatoes.
The duck breast will be slightly pink in the middle. If you prefer it well done, cook the meat for 5 minutes longer in the oven.