Cherry season is brief, so we like to make the most of it. Although we love them fresh and on their own, cherries also lend themselves beautifully to jams, pies, cakes, fruit salads and even savory dishes (think game). Show us how you like to eat them!
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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.
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We used a cherry pitter to take care of these sour cherries -- made the process much faster.
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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!
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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.
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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.
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Soften the shallots before adding the fruit.
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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.