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Roast duck breast with fried cherry-merlot sauce

For pairing with the
North Coast Merlot

6 boneless duck breasts (with skin)
salt and pepper
½ cup shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Merlot
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 cup dried sour cherries
1 tbsp. Fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp. Fresh chives, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim excess fat from edges of duck breasts, leaving skin relatively intact. Score skin with a sharp knife in a crosshatch manner, taking care not to slice the breast. (Scoring helps to prevent the skin from shrinking too much during cooking.) Pat breasts dry with a paper towel and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat two large heavyweight sauté pans over high heat until very hot. Place three breasts in each pan, skin side down. Sauté approximately 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Turn breasts over and place sauté pans in oven. Roast in oven another 6 or 7 minutes or until just slightly rarer than you’d like to serve them. Remove them to a serving dish, cover with foil, and set in a warm place while preparing the sauce.

Pour off excess fat from both pans and, using both pans, sauté half the shallots in each over medium high heat. When shallots are translucent, divide the wine and deglaze both pans with the red wine. When the wine has almost completely reduced combine the two pans into one and add the chicken stock and the cherries. Turn flame to high and allow sauce to reduce by two thirds. Turn flame to low; add salt and pepper to taste as well as the thyme and chives. Quickly slice the breasts on the diagonal, place them onto hot serving plates, and ladle warm sauce over them. Serve immediately. * Makes 6 servings.

*Side dish suggestions: sautéed chard or spinach; wild rice, winter squash, or potato gratin.

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