I’ve made these several times for a first course to great acclaim, and recommend them highly. They’re very good, and I love serving guests something “different.” (Don’t try this on anyone you’d classify as “picky” since the tastes/flavors are unusual.) I suggest using mini tortillas (smaller than small, from Trader Joe’s), two per person, otherwise it’s too much for a starter and nobody eats the entree and dessert, which can be irritating if you’ve spent days on the dinner. These are not easy to make, plus it takes some doing to get all the ingredients—you’re better off trying specialty food stores, not just your supermarket, for dried Bing cherries and dried chilis de arbol. A tip to cut down the amount of work: I schedule a second dinner party right on the heels of the first and make extra sauce. Or, duh, just double everything and invite more friends! The recipe hails from the Los Angeles Times. Also…please check out the box about the different breeds of ducks (Getting your Ducks in Order), which is at the end of the recipe for Ginger Duck.
2 t. kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 lbs. boneless duck breasts, skin on (I actually buy duck halves, bone in, from Costco)
10 dried chiles de arbol
6 oz. dried Bing cherries
1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
6 tomatillos, husks removed, coarsely chopped
8 small corn tortillas
Finely chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Rub 1 t. of the salt into the duck breasts, place them in a large sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for 1 hour while you make the sauce. (I have never done this, but probably should.)
Soak the chiles de arbol and dried cherries in 2 cups of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. In a food processor, combine the drained chiles and cherries with 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 cloves of the minced garlic. Process to a thick paste, adding a little of the reserved liquid to help combine and adjust consistency. Set aside. This makes about 1 cup compote.
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, place the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the onions and the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic. Saute until the onions are just starting to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and continue to cook about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatillos are tender. Remove and cool slightly for a few minutes.
In a food processor, combine the tomatillo mixture with 1/4 cup of the chile-cherry paste. Set aside. This makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.
Place the duck breasts, skin side down, into a cold, cast-iron skillet. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the duck about 10 minutes, or until the skin is golden-brown and crispy and the fat has rendered off. (Turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes and watch to make sure the duck doesn’t burn. Adjust the heat if necessary so that it cooks evenly.) Turn the duck over and cook for 1 minute to cook the meat to medium-rare; otherwise, continue cooking until desired doneness is achieved. Remove the breasts to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice very thinly on the diagonal.
Heat a skillet over medium heat and warm the tortillas. Place two to a plate and divide the sliced duck among the tortillas. Spoon a tablespoon or so of the tomatillo sauce over the duck and add 1/2 teaspoon of chile-cherry compote on top, or to taste. Sprinkle the top with fresh copped cilantro. Serve immediately.