The past few years on Valentine’s Day I’ve had a box of my beautiful wife’s favorite Fruit Truffles delivered to whichever hotel she happens to be in that week. It’s the least I can do to say “I love you and am thinking of you despite the distance between us.” Valentine’s Day or not, who wouldn’t want a dozen fruit truffles after a grueling 12 – 14 hour day spent in a hospital? This year however, she actually made it home not only for Valentine’s Day but for Fat Tuesday as well. Her new regional position is a much needed relief for both of us after the hundreds of frequent flyer miles she’s racked up over the past three years.
Since we were actually able to spend the controversial day o’love together, I decided to go all out and just make a mini event out of it. I started the day off by giving the house a good scrub down while Amy finished up a few corporate emails and then we went on a leisurely two hour hike on the Blue Diamond trail through the Fair Hill NRMA (where my hiking boots totally busted out and I subsequently ended up walking a portion of the way back in my socks…long…freaking…story.) After our hike, Amy spent some time tinkering on a few projects she’s got going on and I tried to catch up on a few blog posts. Evening rolled around and after a quick run for a bottle of red, we spent a glorious two hours streaming Barbra Streisand radio on Pandora while soaking our aching muscles (and my sore feet) in a luxurious goat’s milk bubble bath.
Refreshed and relaxed, I headed back downstairs to the kitchen and finished up dinner while sipping on a bit of sparkling Rose. This was our first experience with duck breast and I was a wee bit nervous risking the entire meal on a new ingredient. But I am determined to add as much variety to our diets as possible, and not only for health reasons but to sharpen my skills and inspire creativity too. This time around the risk was worth the reward. The duck breast was sublimely succulent, the skin crispy bliss, the cherry chipotle sauce was decadent with a seductively subtle heat, the potatoes were little pillows of umami perfection and the fennel jicama salad was light and fresh with the slightest playful hint of sweetness to balance out the entire dish. It was an outstanding dinner and a completely beautiful day spent enjoying our home together. Let’s just hope I can top this next year!
Skillet Seared Duck Breast
2 – 4 Duck Breasts (Herman’s pkg came with 4 & the leftovers were amazing!)
2 sprigs Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Place the duck breast skin side down in a cool skillet and bring up to heat over a med high flame. Sear the duck breast until the skin is golden and crispy and most of the fat has rendered out, about 15 – 20 minutes. Once the skin is seared, flip the duck breast and add in the fresh sprigs of Thyme. Continuously baste the duck breast in its own rendered fat until the duck reaches desired doneness. 155 – 160 degrees for medium rare and if you must have it well done then around 170 degrees. Allow the duck to rest 10 – 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with your favorite sauce and sides.
Cherry Chipotle Sauce
1 cup fresh Cherries, stems and pit removed
1 cup dry Red Wine
1/2 cup Water
1 tsp Molasses
1 Chipotle in Adobo + 2 tbsp Adobo Sauce, or to taste
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp TexJoy Chili powder
1/2 tsp Raw Sugar, or to taste
1 small piece of Cinnamon bark
Salt and White Pepper to taste
Set a slow cooker to low heat and add in all ingredients. Simmer until the alcohol has completely cooked off the wine and the cherries begin to break down, about 2 hours. Remove the cinnamon bark and discard. Puree the cherry sauce in a blender or with an Immersion blender until very smooth. Adjust thickness of sauce with a little water, if needed. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve immediately with seared duck breast or transfer to the fridge until ready to use.
Duck Fat Roasted Red Potatoes
1/2 lb Baby Red Potatoes, washed, left whole w/ skins on
1 tbsp Grapeseed Oil
2 tbsp rendered Duck Fat
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
Using the convection roast setting, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss the potatoes in fresh thyme, grapeseed oil and duck fat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.
Shaved Fennel Jicama Salad w/ Toasted Pecan Vinaigrette
1 bulb fresh Fennel, trimmed, cored, and quartered
2 sm Jicamas, trimmed and peeled
1/4 cup crushed Toasted Pecans
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinager
2 tsp Honey, or to taste
2 tbsp chopped fresh Chives
Salt and Pepper to taste
With a food processor, shave down the fennel and jicama until very thin. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust vinaigrette seasoning as desired. Toss the fennel and jicama in the vinaigrette until well coated.
Transfer to the fridge and chill at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with additional chives, if desired.