Falling for shrub

Fall is here, which is great because it’s my favorite season.  Pears are starting to be seen in the markets and I’m formulating my next round of flavors for The Shrubbery.  I’m envisioning Pears with Vanilla and Proseco vinegar, Pears with Sherry vinegar, and Cranberry with Port wine vinegar and mulling spices (it’ll taste just like Christmas).

We’re in talks with a few new bars to be on their menus and I’ll make sure you know where to find us.  But today I wanted to talk about non-drink/non-alcoholic ways to use shrubs.

If you’re like me, you’re a busy person and dinner is something you have to throw together in 30 or so minutes but you still want it to taste like something that took much longer.  Shrubs are perfect for this, since they make stunning pan sauces.  Try this:

Duck with Spiced Plum Sauce Feeds 4

2 duck breasts, total weight about 1.5-2 pounds
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine, or other rich red wine
1/2 cup Spiced Plum Shrub

If you’ve never cooked duck before, take a deep breath and relax.  It’s actually really easy. About 10-15 minutes before you want to cook, take a sharp knife and cut the skin into a cross hatch pattern.  Don’t cut all the way through the fat layer into the meat.  Then put the duck breasts on a plate and generously salt both sides.  Let it hang out 10 or so minutes.

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a heavy bottom pan to medium and add the duck breasts skin side down.  You want to start rendering out the fat so the skin gets nice and crispy.  After about 5 or 6 minutes the skin will be a lovely shade of golden brown.  Go ahead and flip the breasts over and put the whole thing into the oven for another 8-10 minutes.  The breasts will be medium, which is (IMO) the best way to cook them.

Take the breasts out of the pan and set aside to rest.  This lets the juices settle back into the meat so they don’t all run out when you cut it for serving.  Drain off most of the fat from the pan (if you quarter and boil a few Yukon gold potatoes you can slice them and fry them in the fat for a side dish) but leave all the brown bits.  

Put the pan back over medium heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom.  Once the wine is starting to reduce, add the shrub and keep cooking until it’s nice and syrupy and reduced by at least 1/3.

Slice the duck across the grain into thickish slices.  Put 1/4 of the slices on a plate and pour some sauce on top.  Add any sides, like steamed veggies or potatoes fried in duck fat, and you have dinner.  Feel fancy!


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