Look what I found this Saturday at the Santa Monica (Pico and Cloverfield) farmers market. The stalls were loaded with cherries (I saw Brooks and Tartarian); it was like one giant marble festival. We just ate them in the car, spitting the pits out of the window on the way home (yeah, yeah; it’s fun). None left to play marbles with, sadly. I doubt they’d shoot too well, but the floor would probably look a lot like a minimalist Jackson Pollock painting. Or a crime scene. If you want something more elaborate for your cherries, here’s a story Donna Deane and I wrote last year about the fruit for the LAT, with three of Donna’s great recipes. Or try this one for duck tacos–one of my favorite recipes, btw–with cherry sauce. This recipe calls for dried cherries, but try fresh ones–or a combination of fresh and dried. Or just toss some pitted and halved cherries with salt, lime and chile instead. Cherries are truly awesome with duck, also almonds. Try roasting whole cherries with their pits, lightly coated with almond oil, in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes, maybe less. The oil and the roasting both bring out the vaguely almond taste of the fruit, which comes out even more when they’re cooked with their pits. Spoon warm over ice cream, or over crepes or pancakes. Spit the pits out your window.
DUCK TACOS WITH CHERRY SAUCE
1 1/2 pounds boneless duck breasts, skin on
10 dried chiles de arbol
6 ounces dried Bing cherries
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
6 tomatillos, husks removed, coarsely chopped
8 small corn tortillas
Finely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Rub 1 teaspoon of the salt into the duck breasts, place them in a large sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 1 hour while you make the sauce.
2. Soak the chiles and dried cherries in 2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, combine the drained chiles and cherries with one-fourth cup olive oil, one-half teaspoon salt and 2 cloves of the minced garlic. Process to a thick paste, adding a little of the reserved liquid to help combine and adjust consistency. Set aside. This makes about 1 cup compote.
3. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions and the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are just starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos and remaining one-half teaspoon salt. Cover and continue to cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are tender. Remove and cool slightly for a few minutes.
4. In a food processor, combine the tomatillo mixture with one-fourth cup of the chile-cherry paste. Set aside. This makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
5. Place the duck breasts, skin side down, into a cold, cast-iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the duck about 10 minutes, or until the skin is golden-brown and crispy and the fat has rendered off. (Turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes and watch to make sure the duck doesn’t burn. Adjust the heat if necessary so that it cooks evenly.) Turn the duck over and cook for 1 minute to cook the meat to medium-rare; otherwise, continue cooking until desired doneness is achieved. Remove the breasts to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice very thinly on the diagonal.
6. Heat a skillet over medium heat and warm the tortillas. Place two to a plate and divide the sliced duck among the tortillas. Spoon a tablespoon or so of the tomatillo sauce over the duck and add a half-teaspoon of chile-cherry compote on top, or to taste. Sprinkle the top with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.
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