Jean-Pierre Moullé and his wife, Denise Moullé, join forces to document their culinary journey together from France and Californian wine country.
Cooking duck breasts on a grill or in a fireplace can be tricky but it’s worth the trouble—there’s nothing quite like the lightly smoky flavor you get from the fire. As anyone who has ever grilled duck knows, the ample fat under the skin drips on the fire as it melts, causing flare-ups that char the duck. To avoid this, place a pan in front of your fire and angle your grill toward it so that the rendered fat runs down the grates rather than dripping down on the fire.
This sauce, with its potent fruitiness, contrasts nicely with the fatty duck. I’ve added fresh currants to the cassis to give it an extra bit of acidity (you may use frozen). At its best, cassis is redolent of berries and imparts a concentrated essence of fruit with a subtle sweetness that benefits from the earthiness of red wine. Crème de cassis, like anything else, varies significantly in quality according to how it’s made and where the fruit is grown. The best brands are made in Dijon, where two of the most fragrant currant varieties find their ideal growing conditions on sunny hillsides deeply rooted in the renowned chalky clay of Burgundy. The best currant varieties, Noir de Bourgogne and Royale de Nacre, make the most distinguished cassis. I like the cassis made by Edmond Briottet, but as long as the brand you buy is labeled crème de cassis de Dijon, you can be certain it was made from berries grown in the commune of Dijon and regulated by the strict rules that govern the production of the liqueur in France.
- Trim away and set aside the tenderloins from the duck breasts before removing any extra fat or silverskin from the breast. Use a very sharp knife to score the skin in a cross pattern and season the meat all over with salt and black pepper. Set aside to temper before cooking.
- Combine the black currants, crème de cassis, and red wine in a small saucepan and reduce by half over medium heat. Add the chicken stock and the reserved tenderloins and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cup.
- Prepare a fire and allow it to burn down to medium or, set a gas grill to medium-high. Grill the breasts, skin side down, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skin is nicely browned and slightly crispy. Turn the breasts over and cook for another 5 minutes before transferring to a plate. The breasts should be medium-rare, or still quite pink, at the center.
- Let the meat rest for 2 or 3 minutes before placing the breasts skin side down and slicing each into 6 to 8 pieces. Add the butter to the sauce and reheat until the butter is melted and the sauce just comes to a mellow simmer. Arrange the sliced breast meat on a platter and finish by pouring the hot sauce over it.
Reprinted with permission from French Roots by Jean-Pierre Moullé and Denise Lurton Moullé, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.
JEAN-PIERRE MOULLÉ and DENISE LURTON MOULLÉ