Thanksgiving Duck with Cranberry Sauce

Unlike the all-day marathon that Thanksgiving dinner usually is, our feast was simple and delightful: Duck with Cranberry Sauce, truffled mashed potatoes, green beans and popovers. Check out Gordon Ramsay’s demonstration of the Duck with Gooseberry Sauce. Brilliant approach: simple, passionate, to the point. Yes! Gooseberries are not in season this time of year, so we used cranberries instead.
Duck with Cranberry Sauce
4 duck breasts with skin on
2 tablespoons Szechwan peppercorns
1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups (about half a bottle) dry red wine
1 1/4 cups brown chicken stock
1-2 tablespoons honey
2 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400°. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern. Toast the Szechwan peppercorns in a dry pan until fragrant, then tip into a pestle and mortar with a little salt and pepper. Lightly crush the mixture and use to generously coat the duck breasts.
2. Place the duck breasts, skin-side down, on a dry ovenproof pan and cook on the stovetop over very low heat to render down most of the fat. This may take 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fat.
3. Place the sugar in a small saucepan with a cup of water. Gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon zest and mix through. Increase the heat and boil the liquid for a few minutes until slightly thickened. Tip in the cranberries and gently poach for 1 minute. Leave to cool in the syrup.
4. For the sauce, place the red wine in a pan, season with a little salt and pepper, and boil for 7-8 minutes until reduced by half. Pour in the stock and reduce again by half.
5. Drain off most of the fat from the duck, then turn up the heat fry until the skin is crisp. Add a touch of olive oil, turn them over and cook the flesh side for 1-2 minutes. Place the pan into the hot oven for 8-10 minutes for medium-cooked duck, which should be slightly springy when pressed.
6. Stir the honey into the sauce. Take the pan off the heat and add a few knobs of butter for shine, swirling the liquid to melt the butter. Transfer the cranberries to the sauce to warm through, adding the syrup according to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
7. When ready, rest the duck on a warm plate for a few minutes. Slice the duck breasts thickly on the diagonal and fan out. Spoon over the sauce and serve.
Makes 4 servings.

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