To explore this culinary concept, I bring you "Potent Pairings," a new Tasty Trix series. It works like this: First I choose the booze, and then I dream up the (hopefully) matching dish. For this inaugural edition, I began with Illegal's mezcal anejo, an awesome anniversary present from Poppa Trix:
Some women like diamonds ... I prefer liquor.
This incredibly smooth and complex spirit features notes of smoke, toast, butterscotch, sage, and a very subtle fruit finish. The smoky peatiness of the mezal reminds me of Scotch, which got me thinking about game meats and fowl. I settled on a Moulard duck magret (half breast) from D'Artagnan, rightly supposing that the fatty unctuousness of the meat would handily stand up to the booze. And to cut through that rich duck fat and pick up on the mezcal's slight fruity finish, I made a peppery, ever-so-slightly-sweet blueberry sage sauce with - what else? - a splash of mezcal.
Dorie Greenspan's method for medium-rare breasts: Score the skin diagonally to make a diamond pattern, taking care not to cut the meat. Sear, skin side down, in a skillet over medium high heat for 8 minutes, turn and cook for an additional 6 - 7 minutes. Greenspan has you place the breast in a 250 F oven to keep warm; I prefer to simply cover it and let it rest before slicing it. Make sure to save the rendered duck fat for other uses, like frying potatoes!
For the blueberry sage sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
1 shot mezcal anejo
1 tablespoon veal and/or duck demi glace (I used D'Artagnan, as I had none already made)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
handful fresh sage leaves, chopped
pinch of sugar, if necessary
salt and pepper, to taste
In a small saucepan, saute the shallot over medium heat until translucent. Add the mezcal and simmer for a few moments. Stir in the demi glace. Add the blueberries and sage and lower the heat. Simmer gently until the blueberries are soft and release their juices, but not until they are falling apart. Depending on how sweet they are, you may need to add just a pinch of sugar at this point. Salt to taste and generously season with cracked black pepper.
Serve spooned over the duck breast.
You can plate it up all fancy if you want, as I did above, or, for a messier dinner, place the duck and sauce over a big bowl of creamy polenta. It doesn't look as pretty, but it's a great combination.
I am already hard at work tasting liquors for future pairings (I take my work seriously), but if there's a liquor you'd like me to feature in a future Potent Pairings, let me know in the comments!