With December being such a crazy month (my wife works in retail, and I work in a restaurant), eating at home has kind of taken a backseat over the last few weeks. Therefore, I do have to say that these food and wine pairing articles have also been a little sparse. Who wants to get home after working a 12+ hour shift, and cook? Not me! I’m sure we’re not in a minority on this, but I do have to say that this meal REALLY made me miss cooking at home!
The HeartSmart “For Giving” Mount Veeder Cabernet found its beginning in the most unlikely of places: Oprah.
Peggy Rowan (the winemaker behind HeartSmart) was inspired to create the wine after Oprah’s "The Big Give”. With Peggy’s brother and best friend (the wine label artist) both being quadriplegics, part of the proceeds from each bottle sold is donated to the Reeve-Irvine Research Center (owing part of its name to the actor Christopher Reeve). The facility is devoted to the study of repair, regeneration, and recovery of function after spinal cord injury.
Peggy obviously has a heart of gold, as her other wine (the Great Dane) sees part of its proceeds being donated to the Rolling Dog Ranch, a rescue facility for disabled animals.
So now that you have a little background on the wine, let’s discuss the food!
I think I’ve only cooked duck in my own home maybe twice in my whole life. I really do love duck. You can be assured that if it’s on the menu at a restaurant, I’ll be ordering it. I would probably eat it more often at home, except it’s almost impossible to find at grocery stores. Luckily for me, I have a residential park close to my house with plenty of ducks on the pond. It’s quite handy to be able to sneak under the cover of darkness into the park and shoot a few ducks for dinner…
Did you really think I was serious about that!?!? You really think that I went to the local park, at night, and shot ducks!?!? Wow!!! You really don’t know me at all, do you!?!?
No. I just went to the Fresh Market. Much easier and considerably more legal (although someone should be put in jail for some of the prices they charge)!
So anyway, this recipe was quite excellent, although the one downside was the duck was kind of tough (not the fault of the recipe method). To be fair, how can you go wrong with a recipe that calls for braising duck in port and coffee beans? The most time-consuming part of the recipe was marinating the duck breast. Everything else was easy, though if I was to do it again, I think I’d somehow find a way to throw red cherries into the recipe method!
As for the wine, the HeartSmart “For Giving” Mount Veeder Cabernet certainly showed more fruit “upfront” than the Great Dane wine I featured in my earlier review, but there’s still a level of restraint.
On the nose there’s sweet vanilla, plum, and blackberry. No huge surprises there (from a Mount Veeder Cab). Where the wine really excels is on the palate. An amalgamation of black fruit and dark cherry, which then leads into more savory notes of worn-leather, oak, coffee beans and chocolate. Powerful, yet still elegant. The wine is available in limited supply from www.HeartSmartWine.com
I’ll rate this as a: Perfect Pairing
Recipe for Coffee-Roasted Duck
1 cup hot coffee
4 cardamom pods, crushed
Three 2-inch cinnamon sticks, 2 sticks broken into pieces
Two boneless skin-on duck breasts, trimmed of excess skin and fat
1 teaspoon whole cardamom pods
1 cup coffee beans
1/3 cup Port
1. Mix the hot coffee, crushed cardamom pods, and the whole cinnamon stick in a bowl. Leave to cool.
2. With a sharp knife, score the skin of each breast a few times, making a criss-cross pattern . Place each breast skin side up in a shallow dish, and pour the coffee marinade over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, or ideally overnight.
3. Remove the duck breasts from the marinade and pat dry with a paper towel. Throw-away the marinade. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down, the whole cardamom pods and the broken cinnamon sticks and cook for 4 minutes. Scatter the coffee beans around the duck breasts and cook, gradually increasing the heat as the duck breasts render their fat, for about 5 minutes longer, until the skin turns crisp and brown.
4. Move the duck breasts to a plate and discard the coffee beans and spices. Return the duck, skin side up to the skillet, add the Port and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Braise the duck breasts for 6 more minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
5. To serve, cut the duck breasts on a strong bias into 1/2-inch thick slices and fan them out. Drizzle the pan juices over the duck and serve immediately.