Pan-Fried Featherstone Duck Breast with Dillon's Vodka Laced Niagara Sour Cherries

-recipe courtesy Backhouse, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Pan-Fried Featherstone Duck Breast with Dillon's Vodka Laced Niagara Sour Cherries

2 cups Niagara sour cherries, pitted (if frozen, thawed and drained)
1 tbsp Featherstone Verjus
3 tbsp Dillon's Method 95 Vodka
2 to 3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp farm fresh butter
4 small duck breasts, individual portion size
½ cup Featherstone Cabernet Franc or another dry red wine
2 tbsp farm fresh butter
salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Toss the cherries in a saucepan with verjus, vodka and sugar. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife score the skin and fat of the duck breasts in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut into the breast meat. Season with salt on both sides.

Place all four breasts, skin-side down in a cold, non-stick skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook the duck breasts for approximately five minutes, basting with the duck fat that accumulates in the pan, then turn them over and continue to cook for four minutes.

As the duck fat accumulates in the pan, tilt the pan towards you and spoon out excess liquid not needed for basting. Using tongs, turn the breast on its sides to evenly sear the meat on the side surfaces then remove the breasts from the pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Finish the cooking in the pre-heated oven, about eight minutes.

When done, place duck breasts on individual dinner plates and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour off all the duck fat from the hot skillet and add the red wine. Increase the heat to medium high and reduce the wine to half, scrapping the bottom of the skillet to release the brown bits stuck to the bottom. Add the cherry/vodka mixture and heat just to the barely simmering point for five minutes to poach the cherries. If necessary, add a few teaspoons of the reserved cherry juice.

Remove the cherries with a slotted spoon and divide them equally over top and around the duck breasts.

Add the butter and boil the sauce rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly, about three minutes. Correct the seasoning. Spoon the sauce over each duck breast.