I have been outspoken when writing about food and my passion for cooking with local, sustainable and artisanal ingredients. You can imagine my delight when I read a brief column in the dining section of the January 9 issue of The New York Times that the agreed upon menu for President Obama’s inaugural celebration on January 21 would “feature sustainable, artisanal and local ingredients, and many from New York State.” Charles E. Schumer, New York’s senior senator, was “relishing his role for the committee responsible for the inaugural lunch, and promoter in chief of his states agriculture.” Schumer oversaw the lunch menu, which will showcase apples, cheeses, honey and red and white wines from New York.
“Senator Schumer was hopeful of having Long Island duck but unfortunately the tasters felt the dish doesn’t quite work, the duck was not at fault but rather the preparation.” Instead they chose hickory-grilled bison, no doubt easier to prepare for the numbers attending the inauguration party.
Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue is one of Long Island’s original duck farms, and, as a fan of duck and the farm, I decided to simulate the inaugural lunch with seared breast of duck with black currant sauce, to be served with the North Fork’s Bedell Cellars award-winning 2009 Merlot. And with our very own apple orchard, the Milk Pail in Water Mill, dessert will be an apple custard tart with raisins, cinnamon and rum. I hope Senator Schumer will approve.
Seared Breast of Duck with Black Currant Sauce
Pan sautéing the duck breasts and finishing in the oven is a restaurant technique.
For the duck breast:
Four 8- to 10-ounce boneless duck breasts
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon dry English mustard
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
For the black currant sauce:
1 cup chicken or veal stock, reduced by half
2 tablespoons black currant syrup
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1. Score the fat of the breast well. Season the breasts with a mixture of parsley, dry mustard, salt and pepper. Can season ahead and refrigerate covered for several hours or overnight.
2. Prepare the sauce. Reduce stock by half, add the syrup and thyme and bring to a boil then simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season lightly with salt and pepper and stir to mix. Whisk in the butter, one piece at a time to thicken the sauce slightly. Keep warm over low heat for a minute or so before serving.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
3. To cook: place duck breasts, skin side down in a cold, large ovenproof (cast-iron skillet works well) sauté pan and place over medium heat. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn over to sear flesh side, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and pour off fat. Can be prepared up to 20 to 30 minutes ahead to this point. Just before serving transfer skillet to the preheated oven. Roast until medium rare, about 6 to7 minutes. Remove from pan, season with salt and pepper and allow to rest skin side up.
4. To assemble the dish: Slice duck into thin slices on the diagonal and fan out on dinner plates. Spoon over black currant sauce and garnish with a bouquet of fresh herbs.
Apple Custard Tart
Classic fruit tart with a custard base.
Pate Brisée or store bought pastry dough
5 to 6 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream