For my second “Foodie Magazine Day” post, I turn to Bon Appetit. Maybe it’s the fact that this was our first real food magazine (thanks to a free year’s subscription that came with our purchase of the Bon Appetit cookbook), or maybe it’s the focus on more accessible (and therefore more appealing) recipes and experiences, but this remains one of my favorite sources for recipes and cooking inspirations.
In the June 2008 issue, Bon Appetit encourages readers to start a cooking club and provides a set of recipes that lend themselves to having the group cook them together in one kitchen (assuming all of your prep work is done ahead of time and your kitchen is bigger than most Capitol Hill condos, of course). Although we weren’t planning to start a cooking club, the main course of the meal caught my eye.
Elizabeth and I both love the big flavor of duck, but we had only tried to cook it once before and we had purchased pre-packaged poultry for that attempt. As part of our ongoing effort to do as much of our own food preparation as possible, I decided to visit nearby Capitol Hill Poultry in Eastern Market to pick up some duck and try it myself. I bought the front halves of two whole ducks, bones and all, and brought them home. I began to approach them the way I approach a whole chicken, cutting along the central bones, when I noticed that the breast halves seemed to sit along flat ridges. Working my knife and then my fingers between the ridge and the muscle, I was actually able to pull the meat cleanly away without any of the laborious butchering I had been expecting. After that, it was just a matter of trimming the breast halves to remove some of the excess fat.
More about my attempts to follow Bon Appetit’s lead and the recipe after the jump.
With the duck breasts ready to go and the plums macerating according to the recipe, I realized that I was not particularly fond of the idea of running outside to grill the plums and then running back in to attend to the duck, so I made a judgment call and decided to turn on my oven’s broiler. I figured plums that taste rich and sweet grilled wouldn’t fare too poorly under the direct flame of the broiler, but I set it to low all the same.
The decision to involve the broiler in this undertaking then gave me the idea for a vegetable accompaniment – one of my all-time favorites. I took some asparagus that we had picked up at a local farmers’ market, brushed it with some olive oil, and wrapped it with two slices of cured, nitrite-free bacon from Cedarbrook Farms (a vendor I visit frequently at the Dupont Circle and H Street FreshFarm Markets). These bundles of bacony goodness went onto the same broiling pan as the plums and I put the lot of them in for the same amount of cooking time. It worked like a charm. The bacon was crispy and delicious, the asparagus was cooked through, and the plums had a little bit of a caramelized crust on their exposed faces. The whole meal was delicious, and the recipe is one I would definitely serve to others in the future.
Bon Appetit’s newly-redesigned website makes it even easier than before to access the recipes that appear on their pages as well as quite a few additional options. Rather than try to transcribe the original recipe from the magazine, I’ve copied it from the site. Note that we chose to broil our plums with the asparagus rather than grilling them as the recipe suggests. Enjoy!
Black-Pepper-Roasted Duck Breasts with Grilled Plums
The intense flavor of grilled plums is delicious with roasted duck.
Recipe by Maria Helm Sinskey
- 4 12- to 14-ounce boneless Muscovy duck breast halves, trimmed of excess fat
- 4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 6 firm but ripe Santa Rosa plums or other purple plums, halved, pitted
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
Using sharp knife, score skin of duck breasts in crisscross pattern (cut skin only; do not cut through meat), spacing cuts 1 inch apart. Sprinkle duck breasts on both sides with 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and chill.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Toss plum halves, olive oil, sugar, 1 teaspoon thyme, remaining 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Grill plum halves, cut side down, until grill marks appear and plums begin to soften, about 4 minutes. Turn plums over and grill, skin side down, until skin begins to soften but plums still retain their shape, about 4 minutes. Transfer plums to bowl. Cover with foil and let stand while cooking duck.
Heat 2 large skillets over medium-high heat. Add 2 duck breasts, skin side down, to each skillet. Cook until skin is crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Turn duck breasts over and cook to desired doneness, about 8 minutes longer for medium-rare. Remove from heat and let duck rest 5 minutes.
Thinly slice duck crosswise. Divide among plates. Place 2 plum halves alongside each serving. Drizzle any plum juices from bowl over. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons thyme and serve.