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Author Notes: 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.
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.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Dish You (Intentionally) Set on Fire