a christmas dinner worth pining for

It’s a few weeks after the holidays, and now that things have settled down, I’m ready to blog about some of the highlights.

My husband, David, and I spent our Christmas in Colorado with his family. It was our second Christmas as a married couple, but the first that we were in Colorado. We had the opportunity to decorate our house, see lights at Denver Botanical Gardens, make Christmas cookies with family, and make our own first Christmas dinner together.

But what to make? The traditional meals of our families on christmas included ham, turkey, prime rib, and fondue – none of which sounded exciting to my palate.

It had to be duck. I was pining for duck. I could envision nothing else but Christmas duck. So duck it was.

I picked up a couple duck breasts from Whole Foods and put together our Christmas magic.

First Course:

Brie en croute with candied walnuts and cherry preserves

Second course:

Roasted duck with a balsamic cherry reduction

Fried fingerling potatoes

Haricot verts

I’m still licking my fingers over that one. The great thing was, prep time was only about 20 minutes and cook time was around 30 minutes. Which means, we had a gourmet meal in less than an hour – now that’s a Christmas tradition worth keeping!

On a side note: we recreated our Christmas feast with pork tenderloin a week later, using saved reserved duck fat for the potatoes and saved balsamic cherry reduction! It was a delicious reminder of our wonderful Christmas!


For the Brie en Croute
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (package comes with 2 sheets)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 small (8-ounce) wheel or wedge of Brie
1/2 cup preserves of your choosing
2 eggs, beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Defrost 1 sheet of puff pastry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes and unfold (place remaining sheet in freezer for later use). Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute nuts in butter until golden brown, approximately 5 minutes. Place nuts on top of Brie and spread jam on top of nuts. Brush both sides of the sheet with beaten egg. Center the wheel of Brie on top of the pastry sheet. Bring all four corners of the sheet together above Brie and twist slightly to form a “bundle.” Place “bundle” on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until pastry is golden brown.
For the Balsamic Cherry Reduction:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups rich duck or chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon cold butter
Salt and black pepper
Set a 1-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, about 30 seconds, add the shallots, garlic and cherries. Cook the shallots, garlic and cherries until the garlic is fragrant and the shallots begin to caramelize, about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar, and when the vinegar is almost completely reduced, about 3 minutes, add the stock and chopped sage. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Once the sauce is cooked, swirl the cold butter into the sauce and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

For the Duck Breast:

2 duck breast halves, 6-8 ounces each
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh or fried sage leaves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Score the duck breasts on the fatty side using a sharp knife, cutting about 1/8-inch into the skin in a cross hatch pattern. Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium-low heat. Season the duck breasts evenly on both sides with the salt and pepper, and place, skin side down, in the hot skillet. Cook the breast until the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered, about 10 to 12 minutes. Pour off the fat from the pan and reserve 2 tablespoons of it on the side. Turn the breast over, and place in the hot oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to rest for 3 minutes, and slice each breast into 12 slices. Serve while hot.

For the Fingerling Potatoes:

8 fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons rendered duck fat, reserved from cooking the duck breasts
Salt and pepper

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender, about 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool under running cold water. Once cool enough to handle, place the potatoes on a cutting board and slice in half lengthwise. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, to taste. Heat a 10-inch saute pan with the reserved duck fat over medium high heat. Place the potatoes, cut-side down, in the pan and cook the potatoes until browned and crispy, about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve with the duck.

For the Haricots Verts:

1/2 pound haricots verts, stem ends trimmed
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter

Place the haricots verts in a 10-inch saute pan and cover with 1 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper and place the butter in the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until crisp-tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

*These recipes have been adapted from Ina Garten and Emeril Lagasse from the Food Network.


4 thoughts on “a christmas dinner worth pining for

  1. Dinner looks/sounds lovely. Especially the balsamic cherry reduction. I have no patience for sauces, but they make such a big difference!!

  2. I think you left a cookie out of that picture…the rest sounds awesome! can’t wait for our feast…we need to get planning!

  3. Too funny…I wanted to recheck your fingerling recipe and as I read it, I was reminded of Emeril’s recipe. I guess IT IS Emeril’s recipe. LOL

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