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Duck with Cherry Chutney on Crostini

21-Aug-2006
 
 
 
 
My food contribution for the Deerfield Ranch Wine Pairing Dinner was to be paired with a Pinot Noir.  I love Pinot for many reasons, one of which is that it’s such a versatile wine and will go with many foods.  Although it is red, it is refined enough to often pair with dishes where you might feel white was appropriate.  But where I really like it is with those foods that are sort of "cross-over"  foods.  For instance, I love Pinot Noir with salmon.  Yes, salmon is a fish and people tend to think of white wine with fish, but salmon is a fish with a presence and often a pink fish which makes it a perfect candidate to pair with Pinot. 
 
So my first inclination was to do something with salmon – maybe something like Salmon Three Ways, in which I could showcase a broiled or grilled piece, smoked salmon and maybe a mousse.  But then I started thinking that I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done before.  And, what was nice about this dinner, is that we were assigned our wines with plenty of time to think, plan and experiment.  So I started thinking. 
 
Pinot Noirs run the gamut from very light-bodied wines to much bigger versions.  Although I hadn’t had Deerfield Ranch’s version before and could only find it by special order at my wine shop, I just knew it would be one of the bigger wines.  And that would probably mean some good cherry flavors in the wine.  So cherry became my focus.  I happen to love cherry with duck and have had several dishes that combine those two elements, although I had never made anything myself.  So I set out to explore what I might find. 
 
I came across this recipe from John Sarich.  I’ve used John’s recipes before (and even been lucky enough to take a couple classes from him) and have always found them to be tasty and, maybe more importantly, to actually work as expected. 
 
I wanted to do a recipe check prior to the dinner so I set off in search of smoked duck.  I really would have liked to make my own but since I don’t have a smoker that wasn’t going to be possible!  My first stops were two meat markets in Pike Place Market.  Neither shop had smoked duck but the guy at Don and Joe’s recommended Uwajimaya, which was also on my list of places to check out.  At Uwajimaya, the woman at the meat counter directed me to the only offering they had, a frozen duck half from Maple Leaf Farms, the big duck producer.  Although it wasn’t truly smoked it had been marinated and prepared with spices and herbs to give it a smoky flavor. 
 
I decided to try this out and figured if it didn’t work I’d move on to my other ideas for sources but at least this would let me know if I was on the right track.  This duck had great flavor with lots of thyme present in the herb mix.  I made a little reasonable facsimile of my idea for my final recipe, opened a bolder Oregon Pinot Noir I had on hand and tested.  I was happy with the results! 
 
I checked out a couple other places to see if I might be able to find another option for the duck, just in case.  I didn’t go door to door in the International District and that might have turned up something else, but I did find another option at my local Central Market.  I’ve forgotten the producer’s name but they carry a line of duck breast products, one of which was a smoky, bacon flavored version.  Again, this is a line of frozen products.  This duck breast was really good but I felt the bacon flavor was a bit too strong for what I had in mind.  So I opted to go with the Maple Leaf product which affected my recipe modifications. 
 
My main concern with John’s recipe was that the cherry wouldn’t really be evident enough as the chtuney was actually a cranberry base with cherry incorporated and there wasn’t much cherry in the meat mixture itself.  So that was where my primary modifications were made.  Since the meat was heavily flavored with thyme I also modified the herbs to use that as the primary flavor – as a bonus thyme and Pinot Noir are also great together. 
 
I was really happy with the final result.  Not only was the stand-alone dish very tasty but the pairing of cherry and duck with the wine was really good!  The cherry flavors in both were in perfect harmony!  The one thing I would modify a bit more is the chutney.  Even though I reduced the cranberry aspect and flavor I would have liked it to be even more cherry-ish.  I have some ideas around that and next time will give them a try.  The other thing that is great about this recipe is that the three elements – duck, chutney and crostini – can all be prepared ahead of time and then assembled just before serving. 
 
Now, I’m going to try to remember exactly what I did this time….
 
Smoked Duck with Cherry Chutney on Crostini
2 Maple Leaf Farms duck halves, cooked
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried cherries, finely chopped – use tart cherries, like a pie cherry, you don’t want them too sweet or they will clash with the wine. 
4 tbls. olive oil
2 tbls. Dijon mustard
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Salt, if needed
Splash of orange juice
One long baguette  
 
Remove the skin from the duck and pull the meat from the bones using your fingers. You want long, thin shreds of meat. Then pile the meat with the shreds all in one direction and chop into thirds – you don’t want the pieces too long or they will be hard to arrange on the crostini.  You’ll probably need to do this in several batches.  
 
Toss the duck meat, red onion, garlic and dried cherries until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.  
 
In a small bowl mix the mustard, olive oil, orange juice and balsamic.  I’m not sure how much balsamic I used – I just kept adding it until I had a thick dressing and the taste was mostly balsamic with a mustard element.   You may need to adjust the total amount of dressing based on how much meat you end up with.  When you toss the dressing with the meat mixture you want it to be very moist but not dripping wet.  
 
To make the crostini, slice the baguette into 3/8" slices.  Brush one side with olive oil and broil until lightly golden. 
 
Cherry Chutney 
1/2 cup whole canned cranberries
1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped into medium size pieces
1/4 large red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Kirsch (Cherry Brandy)
Splash of orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
 
Gently mix all ingredients.  You want the mixture to be loose but not runny.  Adjust the ingredients as needed to get the texture correct. 
 
To Serve
Mound a generous portion of the duck on the broiled side of the crostini.  Top with a dollop of chutney. 
 
This recipe makes 30 – 35 pieces. 
 
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