Canard aux Griottes
(Duck stuffed with cherries and pâté with hasselback potatoes)
I have been enjoying cherries the last week or two, mostly with my cereals in the morning. I did know that duck was on the weekend menu, so on Thursday I bought an extra tray of cherries after a couple of days contemplating what to do with the duck. Having a fair stock of pâté, I felt it would be the perfect foil for the duck/pâté umami, set against the orange and cherry (plus honey roasted skin). I also felt that hasselback potatoes (while easy to make) would set the dish off to look as well as taste good.
After cleaning the duck, it was marinated overnight with a salt, black pepper, garlic and onion paste (all whizzed together in a blender) coating. After pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees, it was time to prepare the roasting tin. I cut a large stick of celery to act as a trivet and stuffed the duck. First in was half a juicy Lama orange followed by half my pâté, then as many cherries as would nearly, but not quite fill the cavity of the bird, pressing well down to get as much fruit in as possible and then the remaining pâté. The duck skin was pricked all over with a fork and the bird was then placed on the bed of celery and cut peeled carrots to set next to and supporting the duck. Last of all were the scrubbed potatoes, they could have been peeled, but wherever possible I try and keep the skins of any fruit or vegetable, in part to avoid waste and secondly it is just under the skin where many of the nutrients are stored.
To prepare hasselback potatoes, lay the potato on a chopping board on its flattest side. Take a couple of wooden cooking spoons and place the handles close to the potato to cradle it. Hold the potato and spoon handles and make a series of vertical cuts to the depth of the wooden handles. This way, the potato will nearly, but not quite cut through. I then placed as many potatoes as would fill up the roasting tray and with a brush, coated each potato with olive oil. With a final dusting of oregano over everything, the tray was covered with foil and placed in the hot oven. After an hour and a half, test the duck by pricking the skin with a fork and seeing if the juices run clear and the flesh seems tender.
If the duck seems almost ready at this stage, the potatoes can be brushed again with oil and honey spread on the skin of the duck and placed in the oven again uncovered. After 15 to 20 minutes, the skin should be golden brown and crisp and the bird allowed to rest.
For the cherry sauce to accompany the dish, take most of the remaining cherries, leaving a few chopped and set aside, and boil them with the juice of a lemon, the remaining half orange, some sugar and pomegranate molasses and let them stew for 20 minutes or so on a medium heat. Add garlic, coriander and either Lebanese 7 spice powder or harissa, salt and pepper, the herb/spice quantity depends on taste, then liquidise using a stick blender. Put back on the heat with the reserved chopped cherries, bring to the boil. Once boiled, bring the heat to just above simmer, stirring occasionally for about half an hour. If the sauce is too liquid, it may be thickened with a little cornflower.
The sauce can be prepared in advance and reheated.
Because of the pâté and marinade in the duck and the herbs and spices in the sauce, the cherry taste comes through, but is not overly sweet and the two compliment each other in a more subtle way without being cloying.
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