Cookbook #29: License to Grill

Adapted from Cookbook #29:  License to Grill

Recipe: Grilled Duck Breast with Peach-Green Grape Chutney

Duck.  I don't eat a lot of duck.  In part because of the pricetag associated with this fair fowl, but also because I, like many, find it a little fatty and gamy.  So I went a searching for tips on how to reduce the gamy taste and I discovered this:  soak the duck breasts in a salted ice water for about a hour before using.  The brine should be about a quarter cup of salt per quart of water.  Ice water helps.  Rinse thoroughly and then pat dry.  Viola.  Less gamy duck.

Also duck can be tricky on a grill.  It likes to drip fat and cause flare ups, and even if you have the duck over to the side of your charcoals (see below instructions), you still need to keep an eye on the bird.  The husband and I grilled together (see earlier post on my novice status as a grillmaster), and at one point, he walked around to look at the plants in the garden.  Immediate flare up, and a rush to the grill to move the duck another inch or two.  But with a watchful eye, you can keep your duck from a charred ruin.  You can keep your duck in check.

One should not be surprised about the quality of the recipes in this cookbook, as John Willoughby was an editor at both Gourmet and Cook's Illustrated.  The man has chops. (John Willoughby is also the dashing romantic interest of Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility; however, I suspect there is no connection).  And Chris Schlesinger is no slouch himself, as he teaches at both the New York and Napa campuses of the CIA (that's the Culinary Institute of America, not the Central Intelligence Agency, although I am sure Mr. Schlesinger would make a fine spy).  And we also own their Thrill of the Grill cookbook, so you have not seen the last of this dynamic duo.

This little recipe for backyard duck is really good.  If I were to tweak it, I would cut back a little (down to 3/4 cup, maybe) on the vinegar in the chutney.  The vinegar taste overpowered the peaches a little.  You can also cook the duck and then take the incredibly delicious, crispy, and browned skin off of it in order to make this a little less fat, but I am warning you--the skin is divine.  Otherwise, cook as directed and enjoy.  

For some reason, a good deal of my cookbooks feature (1) peaches on page 210 (so get ready for the peach invasion), (2) believe that I should pickle those peaches in some way (Alert:  I have been soaking peaches in bourbon for a little over a week!), and (3) believe in serving those peaches with duck.  Just putting it out there that you might want to be prowling your farmers market for peaches.

And on the final note:  I am happy to bring more duck into my life.  This was damn good.

Peach-Green Grape Chutney

6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and iced small
3 peaches, pitted and diced medium
1 cup seedless green grapes, halved
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of ground mace
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until transparent,  to 7 minutes.

2.  Add the peaches and grapes and cook, stirring, until the peaches are a bit browned, about 4 minutes; be careful not to burn the onions here.

3.  Add all the remaining chutney ingredients, bring just to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Grilled Duck Breasts with Chutney
4 servings

4 8- to 10-ounce boneless duck breasts
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Peach-Green Grape Chutney

1.  Build a small medium fire in one side of your grill, using abut enough coals to fill a show box.  Season the duck breasts well with salt and pepper and place them on the grill, skin side down, off to the edge of the fire.  Cook for 6 minutes, being careful of flare-ups caused by fat dripping into the fire.  If flare-ups do occur, move the breasts so that they are not directly over the flames; you want them to cook slowly, allowing the fat to drip off at an even pace and giving the skin time to crisp.  Flip the breasts and cook for an additional 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  To check for doneness:  When the duck breasts are nicely browned and as firm as the heel of your hand they are medium-rare.

3.  Pull the duck breasts off the fire and allow to cool for about 4 minutes, then thinly slice them on the bias and serve with the Peach-Green Grape Chutney. 


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