Inside the Picnic Basket: Seared Duck Salad w/ Pickled Cherries, Bibb Lettuce & Champagne Dijon Vinaigrette

We all have a meal to prepare for Dîner en Blanc to pack inside our picnic baskets for the most enchanting evening of the summer. In this series, we bring the stories and recipes of local chefs and food lovers to help inspire your own magical meal. We are pleased to present the second installment of this year’s Dîner en Blanc inspired recipes!

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A self-taught home chef, Jarret Meyers has found a deep love and talent for food that has only grown stronger over the last several years.  An avid entertainer, Jarret is often throwing multi-course dinner parties for his friends, complete with printed menus and wine/cocktail parings.  Though he didn’t make the final cast, Jarret was a selected as top 100 finalist (out of the tens of thousands of hopefuls who auditioned) for Season 5 of Masterchef, a cooking competition show currently airing on Fox.  Jarret loves cooking anything seasonal, often putting his own spin some of incredible dishes served at any one of Philadelphia’s top restaurants. He also writes up his own blog, Champagne and Hamburgers, filled with his culinary adventures and a spectacular list of recipes.

According to Jarret, there’s nothing more elegant and whimsical than a beautifully cooked duck.  Thus, some sort of duck-based dish has made it onto his Philadelphia Dîner en Blanc menu for the past two years.  In thinking about duck recipes for this year’s picnic, he wanted to share a delicious dish that not only travels well, but is simple to make for even the novice home cooks.

Seared Duck Salad w/ Pickled Cherries, Bibb Lettuce & Champagne Dijon Vinaigrette (Serves 2)

Seared Duck

Ingredients

  • 2 duck breasts*
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • 1 head bibb lettuce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

*Note: most stores that carry duck breasts will sell them frozen so plan ahead leaving time to thaw completely before cooking.

Directions

Seared Duck Breast

  • Place duck breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound lightly to even thickness (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch). Discard plastic wrap.
  • Using sharp knife, score skin side of the duck in 3/4-inch diamond pattern (do not cut into flesh)
  • Heat a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.
  • While the pan is heating up, liberally season the duck with kosher salt and black pepper
  • When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of butter
  • When the butter is melted, add duck, skin side down, to skillet and cook until skin is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes
  • Turn duck breasts over, reduce heat to medium, and cook until browned and cooked to desired doneness (I like medium-rare), about 4 minutes longer for small breasts and 8 minutes longer for large breast at medium-rare
  • Then, transfer the duck to a cutting board, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest 10 minutes.(This step is extremely important, if you try to slice into it right away, you’ll lose all the beautiful juice and flavor inside the duck.
  • After the duck has had a chance to rest, slice the duck and let cool

 Bibb Lettuce w/ Champagne Vinaigrette

  • In a medium bowl, add 2 tbsp. of Dijon mustard,  ¼ cup of champagne vinegar, and pinch of salt and pepper.
  • While whisking, slowly drizzle ¾ cup of olive oil
  • After adding all of the olive oil, keep whisking to emulsify the dressing (1-2 minutes longer)
  • Transfer to a sealable container when finished

 Pickled Cherries

  • In a medium saucepan, add ¾ cup distilled white vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tbsp black peppercorns, ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes  and 3/4 cup water to a boil , stirring to dissolve sugar.
  • Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes.
  • Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain into a medium bowl; return liquid to pan.
  • Add cherries and rosemary to saucepan. Simmer until cherries are tender, 3–5 minutes.
  • Transfer cherries and rosemary to a 1 quart mason jar. Pour in enough pickling liquid to cover cherries. Cover and chill. Best if made at least the night before  (: Can be made 1 month ahead. Keep refrigerated. Strain before serving.)

When ready to pack your meal, simply slice the duck, dress the salad and add the pickled cherries.  Assemble in your sealable container and off you go to Philadelphia Dîner en Blanc 2014! Bon Appetit!

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