Of all the trinities in the culinary universe perhaps none holds quite the intrigue of the trifecta of alcohol, grease, and fire. Done well it can earn you a place in the annals of gastronomy. Done wrong it can earn you a Darwin Award. But if a well-lived life is marked by the quest for adventure than the cook who seeks legacy must, literally, play with fire. This is where our story begins …
Actually, it was never that dramatic. But in the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I wore a pair of chemistry goggles the first time I made this. I still get a little thrill when I see the blue flames ripple through the pan.
I am submitting this recipe as it is in the picture. Often there are variations, depending on the season. If watercress is unavailable than I use arugula, and if concord grapes are in season I will sometimes use them. As always, use what you have or desire.
I love a dish that allows me to “recycle.” One of my favorite things to do with the grape and duck jus is to use it for some quick-fry pork chops. And I always save the duck fat to use for pommes frites or some other divine, artery-clogging delicacy.
I happen to like this straight out of the pan, but I did make a sauce once. I used the pan juices and added about a quarter cup of sour cream, a tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and a pinch of cinnamon and cayenne. I leave that decision up to you.
- Serves 2
medium sized boned duck breast
cups seedless red grapes
tablespoons unsalted butter
bunch watercress, excess stems removed
salt and pepper
fleet U.S. Forest Service Fire Fighting CH-47 Chinook Helicopters
- Remove the skin and fat from the duck breast and reserve. Salt and pepper the breast and set aside.
- Fry the skin and fat in a dry skillet, covered, until the fat is rendered and the skin is crispy.
- Pour off some of the fat (if you want to use it for other things than reserve what you pour off) leaving enough fat to fry the breast.
- Fry the duck breast in the remaining fat for approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the breast from the pan and cover with foil. Set aside.
- Pour off the duck fat (again, save it if you want) then melt the butter.
- Add the grapes to the pan and cook them over medium-low heat until they render their juices and are just starting to lose their shape.
- Return the duck to the pan and heat for a moment.
- Add the brandy to the pan and let it warm up.
- Set the brandy on fire. Let if burn for a few seconds then put a lid on the pan.
- Pile the watercress on your serving platter. Using a spoon, gently add the grapes to the watercress, allowing the juice to coat the leaves.
- Carve the duck breast into thin slices on the diagonal and arrange on top of the grapes and watercress.
- If you are making the sauce, do that now and serve it on the side.
- See my comments for information about the duck skin.