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July 25, 2014 4:25 pm
In the textbooks, this dish is generally known as Canard Montmorency, not in homage to the dog in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat but in recognition of the excellent cherries from the town of that name. Montmorency has long been subsumed into the northern suburbs of Paris, and its cherries are a distant memory, but happily the variety has travelled well and is much grown in the US and Canada. Though a bright red, these cherries are surprisingly tart, and it is the sweet and sour element that gives them their special affinity with the richness of roast duck. Should this sort of cherry not be available, a cook with low cunning can compensate with a splash of vinegar.
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Colour in cherries is highly deceptive. I was reminded of this when I bought these cherries at the weekend. I was driving down to visit my sister in Sussex when a sign alerted me to “CHERRIES FOR SALE, NEXT LAY-BY”. I pulled in and selected a couple of pounds – metrification did not appear to have arrived as yet at this little corner of the South Downs. The cherries were two varieties, one purporting to be Kentish and a bright red, the other a darker variety from Sussex. In this case, the brighter cherries were sweeter; I presented these to my sister and took the others back home, knowing their sharper tone would suit my darker purpose.
You don’t see a roast duck in restaurants these days, and supermarkets have followed suit, offering duck breasts and legs more often than a whole duck. This is partly due to the belief that a leg should be served very well done and the breast quite rare. That’s all very well but a good roast duck, cooked medium, the breast still slightly pink and the leg a similar hue, has an integrity and flavour the deconstructed bird lacks.
|1||large duck (2kg)|
|A few sprigs||thyme|
|100g||cherries, preferably a slightly sour variety|
|50g-80g||sugar, depending on the sweetness of the cherries|
|50ml||red wine vinegar|
|100ml||chicken stock (or a stock cube)|
Sugar and fruit can play havoc with wine. A good route would be to fight fire with fire and serve a feisty Australian Shiraz, which will stand up to the combination effortlessly.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
Photograph: Andy Sewell
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