I have a new guy. You all are the first to know. We have a connection, sharing the same passions and interests. In fact, Friday, August 9th, is his 69th birthday. Since this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe choice is Duck Breasts with Fresh Peaches, I’ve decided it’s a perfect and festive entrée for a special birthday dinner.
In America when we think about special home-cooked meals, duck breasts do not come to mind. As Dorie suggests, “For us, duck is often thought of as a fancy restaurant dish; for the French, it’s something that can be seared, sauced, and served in under 30 minutes on a weeknight.”
I’m skeptical. The one and only time I cooked duck, it was a two-day process. Since then my rule has been, if it quacks, don’t even think about cooking it.
To find duck breasts in Aspen was a bit of a huff. I finally gulped three times and stopped at The Butcher Block. The Block has been a local landmark for more than 40 years. It is the high, high-end destination for aged beef, veal, pork, poultry, fish,cheeses, gourmet items, caviar, fresh sandwiches and delicious soups. To shop at the Block, it helps if you are a celebrity or gazillionaire. I am neither.
But, they had four duck breasts and I didn’t. Sold.
Fortunately, the purchase was the hardest part. This week’s recipe is simple. After scoring the fatty duck skin in a crosshatch pattern and seasoning with salt and pepper, I placed the duck breasts, skin side down, in a cast-iron casserole. Set the burner at medium high heat. I cooked the duck for eight minutes, skin side down, and, after turning, for four more minutes. The duck breasts were then transferred from the pot to a loosely folded tinfoil packet and stuck in a 250-degree oven.
Next, I put thyme, garlic and 4 fresh peaches, halved, in the same casserole for five minutes before removing to join the duck breasts in the oven. I made a flavorful and smooth sauce by adding honey, port, vinegars and butter to the pot. (In hindsight, I wish I’d doubled-down on the sauce.)
When the sauce was ready I placed the duck breasts on a platter, piled on the peaches and doused with sauce. This is, without a doubt, one of the best dinner entreés I’ve ever made. If your game, you can find the complete recipe, with all its nuances, here.
Now about my beau. He’s perfection. Tall, dark, handsome, a bit chubby in an adorable-sort-of-way. Full head of hair. He’s a good-natured guy, doesn’t say much, and never talks back. Oh, he growls every so often but his growl is worse than his bite. He doesn’t know a stranger and loves to hang out in the wilderness with me. When I mentioned that I wanted to spend the Winters in California, he was fine with that. Says he’ll just be sleeping anyway.
Not too surprising that Smokey Bear and I found each other, him being my sidekick-of-choice these days, is it? He’s been America’s wildfire-fighting icon, a friend of the forests and wilderness for the past 69-years, and now he’s mine!.
Smokey has recently become more social media-savvy also according to Ragan’s PR Daily. “A new campaign casts him as a warmer character.” Ragan writes. “In contrast to his role as an ominous forest watchman, the new Smokey is more personable and gives “bear hugs” to responsible campers.
Smokey’s message reaches his audience on social sites including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn , Tumblr, and Google+. The bear hugs, seen in the TV commercials, are tweeted as #SmokeyBearHug, along with a bear hug emoticon, to congratulate safe campers or reward someone who shares a helpful fire prevention tip.”
Although Smokey would have been just as happy with his favorite menu of choice, peanut butter sandwiches, bluefish and trout, Duck Breasts with Fresh Peaches and a celebratory chocolate cake were his birthday fare.
If you want to wish Smokey Bear a Happy Birthday, go to any of his social media sites. If you wish to see what my colleagues cooked up this week, go here.