In pursuit of adventures with figs I decided to gastrique a go. Gastrique is “a reduced mixture of vinegar and sugar used in the preparation of hot sauces accompanying dishes made with fruit (such as duck with orange). Gastrique is prepared by heating the ingredients together (seasoning as necessary) until the liquid has almost entirely evaporated.” [Larousse Gastronomic]. What better to go with a figgy fruit sauce than duck?
I picked up two ducks breasts from Whole Foods and here is what I found when I got home: (1) it was double duck breast – that is, two duck breasts still attached; (2) one was soooo frickin tiny; (3) there was cartilage left on the meat; (4) the tiny set of duck breasts had lil hairs not all plucked out. If I’m paying Whole Foods prices for these I sure do not want to butcher my own meat or pluck out duck hairs with my fingers!
Anyhow, I only plucked a few then gave up since there were so many. I figured I would cook it with the skin on and later remove the offending hairy skin. But later when I was tasting the oh so delicious duck breast with the skin all browned and crispy I totally forgot about the hairs and honestly they were undetectable. All I did for the duck was to season it with salt and pepper, score the skin, brown it on the skin side to render the fat, flipped them over and finished them in the oven for a few minutes. They didn’t turn out as pink as I would have liked but my brain wasn’t processing smartly and didn’t think Hey these ducks breasts are really small. I should probably cook them a few minutes than most recipes say.
For the gastrique I looked up a bunch of recipes online and compared them to get an idea of what the vinegar and sugar proportions should be. There was a huge variation so I just went with more vinegar than sugar since I like less sweetness. The Top Chef fig gastrique recipe used port and cider vinegar so I went ahead and followed their lead. I have a really old bottle of port in my fridge. I know I’m not supposed to keep it this long but I couldn’t bear to throw it away being more than half-full. The gastrique tasted just fine, thank goodness.
Oh and the green stuff on the base is swiss chard, blanched then sauteed with garlic. Enjoy!
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/6 cup port
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 sprig of rosemary
4 figs, small diced
Heat sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan until it dissolves and turns golden brown. Carefully pour in vinegar and port. It will bubble and hiss and be a lil scary of take caution and keep your face away from the pot. Add shallot, fig, rosemary, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Reduce until syrupy and break up the fruit a lil bit with a spoon or spatula.