Quatre Épices Duck with Brandied Cherries

Quatre Épices Duck with Brandied Cherries
paired with Pine Ridge Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Serves 4

This boldly seasoned dish needs a rich, fruit-forward red wine to stand up to it. Our Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon certainly has the depth and strength and its cherry-cordial aroma complements the cherry sauce.

Brandied Cherries
1½ cups brandy
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 small cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, cut in half
1 star anise
Peel from ½ of a lemon, cut in large pieces
1 pound fresh pitted cherries (may substitute frozen pitted cherries)*
Splash of Armagnac

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring brandy, sugar, water, cinnamon, vanilla bean, star anise, and lemon peel to a boil. Add the cherries. Simmer mixture until the fruit is soft but not mushy. Remove fruit from pot with a slotted spoon and reduce liquid until syrupy. Pour the syrup back over the fruit. Add a splash of Armagnac. Let stand until cooled to room temperature; refrigerate until needed.

May be made up to 3 days in advance.

*If you use frozen fruit, the cooking time will be shorter.

Quatre Épices Duck Breasts

10 cloves
1 tablespoon white peppercorn
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
¾ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 duck breasts, 6 to 8 ounces each

The day before serving, make the quatre épices. Grind the cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder to a powder. Combine with the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Trim away excess fat from the duck breasts and gently score the skin side. In a small bowl, combine salt with 2 tablespoons of the quatre épices. Sprinkle both sides of the duck breast with the mixture. Place in a non-reactive dish, cover with plastic, and refrigerate overnight.

Remove both the duck and the brandied cherries from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring to room temperature.

Wipe the duck breasts to remove excess seasoning. Fry skin side down in a heavy pan to render the fat and crisp the skin. Turn the breasts over and cook a few more minutes, until the duck is medium-rare and still springy to the touch. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes.

Slice the breasts on the diagonal and spoon the cherry mixture over them.