How do you do it? How is it possible to interweave a recipe about duck with the horrors of cancer? I’ve lost loved ones to the disease and nearly everyone has or will at some point. I was recently asked to join several other bloggers this week in an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. My mind immediately went to two strong women who lost their battles; a coworker and a good friend. In 2006, my friend died from Leukemia, a form of blood cancer. She was 24 years old. Is her story even appropriate this week? There is no such thing actually is a Leukemia Awareness Month but it gets no publicity. I think every story is worth telling, whether it’s breast cancer, lung cancer or leukemia.

Someone suggested I share one of her favorite recipes. My response was that she loved beef jerky and frozen pizzas covered in garlic powder (because real garlic made her hands smell). Food wasn’t really her thing. I doubt she ate duck. But she did love art and photography.

Yes, those are my legs peeking into some of the shots. But she’s clearly the star of these photos; the camera loved her. I preferred working behind the scenes (and just to be clear I didn’t take these photos of her.) I should also mention that in addition to being incredibly artistic, she was very funny.

There may or may not have been mind altering substances involved in this photo

She was an artist and I wanted to be just like her. She inspired me to be more creative. To make art. Only I was kind of a terrible artist. I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t paint, and her homemade jewelry always looked way better than mine. We took nude model drawing classes together and her sketches looked great while mine looked like drunk attempts at crude cartoons. But no matter what she was always encouraging. Little did either of us know that years later I’d discover cooking and that would become my art. I know she’d dig it. I’d certainly make her a pizza.

The cancer took her life within three years of the initial diagnosis. It was difficult to watch, especially because there was a brief period of remission at the halfway point where it looked like everything was going to be ok after all.

Thanks, Ann, for being a good friend and for inspiring me to create art. I couldn’t always be the friend you needed, but I did the best I could and I know you knew that.

RIP 2/7/06

The recipe I’m sharing today for duck with red wine mushroom sauce and lentils isn’t as random as it sounds. While researching ingredients that help prevent cancer my results included (but were not limited to) shallots, mushroomslentils, kale and red wine (please check out the links for more details on health benefits). When I saw those ingredients I immediately wanted to pair them with a nice, juicy steak. But since red meat has been linked to cancer that would be very counter-intuitive. After contemplating my options I settled on duck. It has some of the same meaty qualities as steak and it’s less boring than chicken. Plus, I’ve never shared a duck recipe on the blog. By all means, swap out the duck for pork tenderloin, chicken breasts or even steak when preparing this.

 

Duck with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce and Lentils
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
For the lentils
  • ½ cup French lentils
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, whole
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 sprig thyme
For the kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ bunch of kale, inner stem removed and ripped into smaller pieces
  • ¼ cup water
For the duck and sauce
  • 1 large or 2 small duck breasts
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ tablespoon butter
Instructions
Prepare the lentils
  1. Pick through the lentils and wash thoroughly.
  2. Place in a saucepan with stock, shallot, garlic and thyme. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
  3. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until lentils are soft but still toothsome. Drain excess liquid. Remove garlic and stem from thyme.
Prepare the kale
  1. In a large pan, saute the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until tender. Add the kale and water. Stir periodically until the greens have cooked down. This can be reheated right before serving the meal.
Prepare the duck and pan sauce
  1. Score the fat on top of the duck breast diagonally in both directions. Make sure to cut all the way through the fat without cutting into the meat. This will help the fat render properly. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a saute pan over medium heat for several minutes and then place the duck in the pan, fat-side down.
  3. Let the fat render over medium heat for several minutes (5-10 depending on the size) until it's dark brown and crispy. Drain off some of the duck fat periodically so the meat isn't swimming in fat (save in the fridge for later use).
  4. Flip the breast and allow it to cook on the opposite side for a few minutes. You're aiming for a medium rare breast with crispy (not chewy) fat. I like to keep a thermometer on hand. Remove from the heat when the center is around 125 degrees (it will continue to cook). Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 minutes.
  5. While the duck is resting, prepare the pan sauce. Drain any remaining fat from the pan and then deglaze with red wine. Use a spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom and incorporate them. Once the wine is almost cooked away, add the shallots and a sprinkle of salt. Allow them to cook for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Brown the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes and then add the chicken stock.
  6. Allow the stock to reduce significantly until it's a thin sauce consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter immediately.
  7. Slice duck on the bias into thin strips. (If you accidentally undercook the meat you can briefly stick it in a 375 degree F oven. Be very careful not to overcook in this scenario.)
  8. Fan the duck over the lentils and top with the mushroom sauce. Serve with kale.
Notes
Duck is considered a fatty bird but the meat itself is very lean, especially if you render off most of the fat. You can slice away the layer of fat on the breast before cooking if you prefer a lighter meal. Be sure to add a bit of oil to the pan before sauteing.

If at all possible, use homemade chicken stock in the lentils and pan sauce. It tastes much better and is less processed. If making homemade stock seems daunting, please email me. I will personally guide you through the process!

 

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  • Kathryn

    I’m so sorry for your loss; she sounds like she was a really remarkable person and I know it never gets any easier. Cancer is just so unfair.

  • http://thatskinnychickcanbake.blogspot.com Liz

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend. I was an oncology nurse for 5 years…most of my patients had leukemia so I know her story. I’m so sorry for your loss and the loss of this talented woman with such a joy for life. I’m glad you shared such a delicious recipe in her honor.

  • http://www.thewickednoodle.com kristy @ the wicked noodle

    I want you to know that I’ve been putting off going to my annual checkup and your post just kicked me into high gear. Thanks for that.

    This is a beautiful post and Ann would be very touched, I’m sure. Your talent is clearly both food and writing, my friend.

    xo

  • http://cookinginsens.wordpress.com Rosemary Mullally

    You’ve outdone yourself!

  • Lan | angry asian

    oh sweet girl, this is a loving tribute to your friend. this is a wonderful way to remember her & how vital she was in your life. take heart, she would be so very proud of where you are now, who you’ve become and how much you’ve grown.

  • http://www.justasmidgen.com Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen

    Through you we all have a little glimpse into a wonderful young woman. I’m so sorry to read about your loss.. she seemed like the kind of friend we would all wish for. Is there a link for your group? I think that’s such a great idea! xx

  • http://daisysworld.net daisy

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend. Thanks for sharing your words and photos of her. Our loved ones are never completely gone when they are remembered. They stay in our hearts forever.

    daisy

  • http://www.unegaminedanslacuisine.com/ Valerie

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend. (The pumpkin carving photo is priceless.) Thanks for sharing some of your memories with us, and for reminding us to hug everyone we love a bit tighter. xo

  • Patty

    Congratulations on a lovely tribute to your friend-thanks for sharing your photos and delicious recipe.
    This is such an important cause to raise awareness about this month-great job on your contribution;-)

  • http://bakeyourday.net Cassie

    That is a beautiful tribute to your friend, and I think you wrote it perfectly. I love this recipe too, the combination sounds absolutely incredible! Thanks so much for joining with us this week!

  • http://www.anecdotesandapples.com Monet

    What a beautiful tribute to your friend There are no words. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.bluekaleroad.com Hannah

    This is such a touching tribute to your friend. I am sorry to read of your loss. Thank you for sharing about her (the photos tell quite a story – I was giggling at the shark one!). My best friend died in 2008 of cancer and I miss her everyday. Sounds like a great group you are part of and I appreciate your research of cancer prevention foods. Cheers to life, friends and this delicious recipe!

  • http://www.crumbblog.com Isabelle @ Crumb

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend. Thank you for sharing her story… it sounds like she was a very special person indeed.

  • http://www.thecomfortofcooking.com Georgia @ The Comfort of Cooking

    What a deilcious, elegant looking dish to celebrate your dear friend. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://hskillet.blogspot.com Jenn and Seth

    what a lovely post to your friend, i’m so sorry for your loss. your duck recipe sounds wonderful. i’ve yet to cook duck myself, and i think it is time i try!

  • http://stowell.wordpress.com Roger Stowell

    Powerful post. She looked as though she didn’t waste her life and made others richer through it. I’ve lost a few friends along the way and never paid them such a tribute. By the way, I don’t think the shark’s on drugs:)

  • http://agoodtimewithwine.com Matt mmWine Horbund

    Great way to honor a friend. And I happen to love duck! Pinot Noir really works nicely with Duck, if you’re looking for a wine pairing for the meal!

  • http://gobakeyourself.wordpress.com/ Choc Chip Uru

    That was powerful but beautifully expressed my friend, friends memories live on forever

    Hugs
    Uru

  • http://blondexambition.wordpress.com Katie @ Blonde Ambition

    This is a very beautiful tribute to your friend. No one in my family has had breast cancer, but many other forms of cancer have affected my family and the lives of those around me (including leukemia), so this certainly hit home for me. And the meal you created looks beautiful – that is your art!

  • http://tutti-dolci.com Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    A beautiful tribute to Ann! Creating art in her honor is so fitting.

  • Julia | JuliasAlbum.com

    I love duck! Your dish looks delicious! I just made a mushroom red wine sauce (but with steak), too the other day and posted on my blog. Found your site through Food Gawker. Beautiful photos!

  • http://www.piesandplots.net Laura Dembowski

    So sad about your friend, but it’s nice you had a chance to honor her. It’s on my bucket list to try duck. I think I need to get around to it soon.

  • http://thespicedlife.com/ Laura

    You asked on FB how to combine these topics–I think you did it beyond perfectly. You made me cry and you made me see a bit of your friend, which I think is wonderful. Perfect post and perfect looking recipe too. (see now my comment feels awkward lol).

    If you don’t mind me slightly getting on my soapbox for a minute, I will say I am glad you indirectly drew awareness to the fact breast cancer gets all the publicity. I find that frustrating sometimes.

    • http://www.savorysimple.net Savory Simple

      Thanks, Laura. Your comments and others have made me a bit teary all day. This was a tough one to write but I feel good about it.

  • http://acupofmascarpone.com Carol | a cup of mascarpone

    How lucky Ann was to have a friend as special as you to give her such a beautiful tribute.

  • http://www.breathelighter.wordpress.com Debra

    You’re so right…if you haven’t lost someone special to Cancer, then you are very young, and you will. Sadly, it is true. I lost my first friend to Cancer while I was still in my 20’s and she barely 30. Also Leukemia. And it goes from there. I’ve lost many. What a lovely tribute to Ann. And a special recipe, too. I was very moved by this lovely post. Wonderful photos!

  • http://blog.mushrooms.ca Mushrooms Canada

    Thanks for sharing Ann’s story and for sharing such a wonderful recipe. It sounds absolutely delicious!

    -Shannon

  • http://thedomesticrebel.com Hayley @ The Domestic Rebel

    What a moving tribute to your friend, Jen. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure she’d be proud with this beautiful creation and your gorgeous pictures, though!

  • claire @ the realistic nutritionist

    I’m so so sorry about your loss. Such a beautiful post. And I posted duck today too, twins :)

  • http://www.mydailymorsel.com Riley

    This is a lovely story, Jen. I’m sorry for your loss. The duck looks delicious!

  • http://hiddenponies.com Anna @ hiddenponies

    What a beautiful post, so full of heart. I’ve never cooked duck but it looks scrumptious, and I love how you decided what ingredients to incorporate.

  • http://justonecookbook.com/blog/ Nami | Just One Cookbook

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jen. She must be very happy that you made this beautiful tribute to her. I have lost my favorite aunt from cancer and I have been thinking a lot about her lately. Great recipe and we love duck! I think I have some in the freezer too.

  • http://kirantarun.com/food Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    This post definitely broke my heart — I feel your pain my friend. She was a remarkable friend. RIP.

    • http://www.savorysimple.net Savory Simple

      <3

  • http://fudgingahead.wordpress.com Aly

    I definitely agree that sharing all stories is useful and good. I get so tired of certain cancers getting so much attention. I feel like any cancer is bad and should get funding/support.

    On a food note, this sounds delicious…I would have to pair it with chicken because I’m not a duck lover, but still good. :)

  • quick dinner ideas

    Your friend would love to know your doing a great job with your calling. Your passion for food shows in how wonderful they turn out. This is one of them

  • http://www.bakeaholicmama.com Carrie@ Bakeaholic Mama

    Jen, such a hard thing to write about. I’m so sorry for your loss. Cancer is a horrible thing no matter what form. I can’t count on my fingers how many friends and family members who have had, or I have lost to all types of cancer. It’s horrible. I love that Breast Cancer get’s so much awareness this month but am saddened that cancers like Colon Cancer or Leukemia get very little attention.

  • http://www.chocolateandchillies.blogspot.ca Asiya @ Chocolate and Chillies

    Cancer is a cruel disease. My father has esophageal cancer and it really is difficult. You have written a beautiful tribute to your friend.

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  • http://beautybubblesinyourlife.blogspot.fr/ Manonnn

    I’m sorry for your lost, I’ve lost a friend to this year. And you have right they always live you something, I reallise this with your post for you it’s was art for me it’s my passion with make up. I’ve start a blog few mouths later and think I don’ risk anything I just have to try and share my passion. And just smile no matter whats happen in your life.

    So thank you for this post you makes me cry but also smile

    http://beautybubblesinyourlife.blogspot.fr/

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  • http://afracooking.wordpress.com afracooking

    Thank you so much for sharing this fabulous recipe. I loved it (actually three times in as many weeks). The only change I really made is to omit the sauce. I enjoyed this dish so much I posted it on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • http://www.savorysimple.net Savory Simple

      I’m so glad you liked it!

  • Lauren Kayser

    It is sad to hear about that but I guess you’re right. Other types of cancers don’t have awareness publicity.