Meat Course : Pan Seered Duck Breasts in a Cherry Port Sauce

Wine Suggestion : Burgundy, Barbaresco, Oregon or Russian River Pinot Noir

The fourth course in a formal dinner is the meat course or entree, and its place in the meal is very different in Europe and America. In French cuisine entree literally means entry. It is a smaller savoury course that precedes the main course, typically a roast. In North America however, an entree is the main course.

Some tips about choosing duck. Duck meat is high in fat, so don't indulge in it too often. Cooking duck should not be intimidating. Look for packages that are cool to the touch and have no tears. Always be on the safe side and select your poultry just before checking out. Once home put it straight in the refrigerator. If you are marinating the duck also do that in the refrigerator. Discard the marinade after use. If you want to use the marinade as a sauce or dip, set aside some before adding the raw food.

2 5-to 6-ounce duck breast halves or one 12-to 16-ounce duck breast half
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
8 halved pitted sweet red cherries, fresh or frozen, thawed
2 tablespoons tawny Port
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey

1. Place duck breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound lightly to even thickness (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch). Discard plastic wrap. Using sharp knife, score skin in 3/4-inch diamond pattern (do not cut into flesh). DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper. Add duck, skin side down, to skillet and cook until skin is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn duck breasts over, reduce heat to medium, and cook until browned and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for small breasts and 8 minutes longer for large breast for medium-rare. Transfer to work surface, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add shallot to skillet and stir over medium heat 30 seconds. Add broth, cherries, Port, and honey. Increase heat to high and boil until sauce is reduced to glaze, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Thinly slice duck. Fan slices out on plates. Spoon sauce over and serve.