I was in the gastronomic equivalent of writer's block. And I didn't know how to get out of it. Eat out? Read a cookbook? Sacrifice a small goat? We have a (church) friend who claims to suffer from clinical depression. I don't mean to belittle what she's going through, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if tomorrow she found a briefcase filled with cash at her door, all her symptoms would go away.
It turns out dinner with friends was what I needed. Originally planned for my place, we moved over to a friend's, which worked out nicely. Close, and besides, I like cooking in her kitchen. Grocery shopping was a bit haphazard . . . I like doing these things with a clear plan in mind. But for once, my head was completely empty of what I wanted to cook. So went, almost by default as these things were, to beef and veg. It was an expensive cut of rib steak though - I can say that because I wasn't the one paying. And then I remembered that one of the shops had duck breast.
Dinner was great - a steady stream of food coming out, no rushing. And the wines . . . stunning glasses of ruby-coloured pinot noirs. I had wanted to open all my 2006 Le Clos Jordanne single vineyard pinot noirs in July, but things happened, and maybe it wasn't such a bad idea that I waited. We ate the day before New Year's Eve, well into the early morning. And I think I got some of that inspiration back.
Seared magrets de canard:
Quite possibly, the simplest method to eat duck breast. And every time, I'm reminded that I don't eat enough duck.
Pat the duck breast dry, then season the skin side with sea salt. Be generous. Skin side down in a cold non-stick pan. Turn the stove onto a low heat.
Over 15 minutes or so, turn up the heat incrementally until you see the duck fat render and begin to pool. It will begin to sizzle - keep the fume hood quiet so you can hear that glorious symphony of the duck cooking in its own fat. Check the skin to make sure it browns but doesn't burn. Once you get enough colour on it, season the meat side with sea salt, but be gentle. Flip. Baste the skin in its own fat, continuing to cook until the duck reaches the desired temperature. But keep it pink in the centre.
Out of the heat, and wrap it up in aluminum foil to rest. Thick slices. The skin will be amazingly crispy, the meat tender and gamey.
And serve with pinot noir.