Week 5 Finalists: Best Cherry Recipe

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Roasted Duck Breast with Sour Cherries by Heather

Like Heather, we had never cooked with sour cherries before. The raw cherries were pristine and nearly translucent, with a cautious nibble prompting a serious pucker. Simmering the cherries with the shallots, apricots, thyme, stock and wine mellows their tartness and gives rise to a bright, fragrant sauce that complements the duck, an often gamey bird. Helen, our duck guru, showed us how to properly render the fat by keeping the heat at a slow, steady burn and (carefully) pouring off the fat every once in a while so that the breasts wouldn't start to deep-fry.


We got our breasts whole, so after splitting them, and trimming the excess fat, we scored them. To properly score, cut through 99% of the fat, but try not to cut into the flesh. This allows the fat to render properly, and beautifully.


We used a cherry pitter to take care of these sour cherries -- made the process much faster.


Here, we're setting up all the ingredients for the sauce, so they're ready to go once the duck is out of the oven.


You want to make sure to season both sides of the duck, and to do so aggressively. And while you're seasoning your duck, it's a good idea to turn the heat on, and warm the pan -- fat in a cold pan will often stick.


While the duck looks a touch crowded here, the fat will quickly begin to render, and the flesh will tighten, leaving ample space. You'll want to keep the heat in the medium range, so that the fat renders and doesn't just melt (or worse, burn).


Instead of pouring all the fat off at the end, we poured it off periodically through the cooking process. It makes the process slightly safer (much less splattering fat), and it avoids the possibility of partially deep frying the breasts. But be careful when you're pouring off the fat with the breasts still in the pan -- they tend to jump out. It's much easier with two people!


The breasts are finished rendering when they're a deep golden brown, and a relatively thin layer of fat remains. They should be a touch darker around the edges, and crisp.


Because we poured off the fat during cooking, only about 2T (what the recipe called for ) was left in the pan after roasting. Furthermore, there were some good looking juices that had appeared during the oven time, and we didn't want to lose those. So, we just kept what was left in the pan for the base of the sauce.


Soften the shallots before adding the fruit.





After we added the liquid, but before we brought the sauce to a boil, we switched pans. Boiling liquid in cast iron will turn it grey and cloudy. Gross.


Slice the duck on a slight bias.


Merrill's "helping" Amanda. Clearly.


Finished and delicious!


Cherry Clafoutis by lauren

Whether you call it "Cla-foo-TEE," "Cla-FOO-tee," or even "Cla-FOO-tis" (yes, we've heard this last pronunciation uttered with unabashed confidence), this eggy French dessert can be tricky to get right. Lauren's version is simple, not too sweet, and tender where others are either gooey or tough. Although we were intrigued by the idea of un-pitted cherries lending better flavor, we decided we didn't want to worry about chipped molars and pitted ours. When cherry season is over, try this recipe with berries instead.



After buttering the dish, Amanda floured it. It looked a touch clumpy, but we discarded the excess flour, and it was fine.


The cherry pitter! Saves time, and it's surprisingly fun to use.



It doesn't look like very much batter, but fear not: it puffs up beautifully.




We started with a timer set to 30 minutes, but the recipe was spot on -- exactly 40 minutes after going in, the clafoutis was ready.


You know the clafoutis is ready when it ceases to jiggle in the center. It'll look a touch wet, but the batter won't be weepy.


Wait for it to cool before dusting with powdered sugar, or the sugar will just melt into the clafoutis.


Finished and beautiful!