A meal in festive spirit - Christmas dinner itself, if you like - can be dished up at the drop of a hat when you find the right recipe.
And this could one of those winners: Chef Andy Nusser, of Manhattan's tiny but hugely popular restaurant Casa Mono, has come up with a streamlined but creative dish inspired by food he tasted in Barcelona's tapas bars. The recipe for duck with cranberry-mustard sauce is among a selection of quick-cooking recipes in the December issue of Food & Wine magazine, grouped as "fast expert."
The recipe's head notes explain that Nusser's secret for cooking duck is to slowly sear it over low heat, which crisps the skin while keeping the meat tender. He likes duck best with a sweet-tart sauce like this cranberry mostaza (mostaza being Spanish for mustard), with its hint of red wine vinegar.
Duck With Cranberry Mostaza
3/4 cup dry red wine
3/4 cup sugar
1 large bay leaf
12-ounce bag cranberries
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Two 12-ounce duck breasts
2 large endives, quartered lengthwise
In a large saucepan, combine the wine, sugar and bay leaf, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil until syrupy, about 9 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook until they begin to break down, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the mustard, then whisk the mixture into the cranberries. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy skillet until very hot. Lightly rub the duck skin with vegetable oil and add the breasts to the skillet, skin side down. Cook over moderately low heat until the skin is golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. As the fat renders, spoon it into a heatproof bowl. Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper, turn them and cook over moderately low heat until browned on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Transfer the duck to a plate and keep warm.
Add 2 tablespoon of the reserved duck fat to the skillet and heat until simmering. Add the quartered endives, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until softened and golden, about 6 minutes. Slice the duck breasts and transfer to plates. Serve the duck with the quartered endives and cranberry mostaza.
Wine suggestion: a juicy, richly fruity red Spanish tempranillo.
Makes 4 servings.