Suzanne Goin’s Grilled Duck Breasts with Roasted Grapes

This past Saturday I had the pleasure to chat with the always busy Los Angeles chef Suzanne Goin at the Little Mercato, the farmers’ market in Little Italy.  Suzanne somehow manages to balance her life as the mother of three young kids, plus her at least as demanding other kids, her restaurants Lucques, A.O.C., the Hungry Cat (with her husband David Lentz), the Tavern, and the Larder. We chatted about her book, the A.O.C. Cookbook. While I haven’t had a chance to start cooking my way through A.O.C., I have had many delicious meals at the restaurant and cannot wait to dig into the book. The small-plate concept is especially appealing and will no doubt provide inspiration for my next cocktail parties.

Grilled duck breasts with crème fraîche and roasted grapes

Meeting Suzanne Goin is a perfect occasion to revisit some of my favorite dishes from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, her previous book which won the Beard award in 2006.  One of the things I like about the book is its use of seasonal produce.  Obviously I am very lucky to live in California and have access to the items that the recipes call for.  Some of her favorite vendors mentioned in the book sell at the San Diego farmers’ markets. One of the most notable is Schaner Farms whose owner Peter Schaner I had an opportunity to meet during the book-signing event. I picked up a few Fuyu persimmons (which he recommends finely slicing and drizzling with lime juice), Oro Blancos (a cross between grapefruit and pomelo that is delicious in cocktails), and fresh pomegranate juice.

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The book is organized by season and has a number of menus for 6 people.  I rarely prepare the whole menu but it’s good to have ideas of dishes that go well together.  I found that if I followed the recipes as written, including all the accompaniments, the recipes were somewhat involved but not overly difficult, and led to exceptional results.  So I try to follow her recipes as is for dinner parties.  However, for everyday cooking I do tend to simplify the recipes a little, meaning that, for example, I don’t prepare every component of the dish, or reduce the times required to marinate meats if I am running short on time.

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The Grilled Duck Breasts with Roasted Grapes is a favorite that I prepare regularly.  The duck breasts are seasoned with juniper berries and thyme and then very simply cooked on the grill. This technique produces flavorful meat and crispy skin. As a bonus, it generates much less mess compared to cooking duck breast on the stove.  I prefer to use Muscovy duck breasts which are quite large (about a pound) and ideal for this preparation as they stay very moist.  The grapes are roasted in the oven.  Instead of a sauce, a little bit of crème fraîche is drizzled on the duck. The juniper

  • Index: Cooking from Sunday Supper at Lucques (coming soon)

Note: part of this post originally appeared on eGullet and was updated for the blog.

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