A few years ago we were invited to a holiday party and everyone was asked to bring a dish. I needed something I could make ahead, assemble quickly and which would hold at room temperature on the buffet. Some sliced smoked duck breast, jam, wine, dried cranberries, a few spices, and a little pepper later and voila, I had a smashing concoction! These are elegant, delicious, and the hit of the party.
While I use a store-bought jam in this recipe because it is easy, with the availability of fresh cranberries in the stores at this time of the year, I would absolutely use my own homemade cranberry sauce as the base for this jam. Do not use the gelatinized version in the can though – that will not work in this case.
As with anything else, use the best quality jam you can afford. I love the preserves from Sarabeth. You can use any flavor of jam that you like, but I particularly think their blend of the plum and cherry complements the duck perfectly. It is slightly tart and piquant and lends itself well to the other flavors. When combined with the red wine, cranberries, and spices, it creates the most amazing treat.
Once you have the jam made you can use it in all kinds of ways. In addition to accompanying the smoked duck, the jam would be wonderful baked with Brie & puff pastry, on turkey sandwiches, thinned slightly and served as a glaze on ham, pork or chicken, or simply served on toast. I had to control myself from eating the whole batch, spoonful after spoonful.
You can serve this combination in a myriad of ways. You can keep it simple or get as fancy as you like. You could use thick slices of cucumbers, toasted baguette slices, neutral-flavored crackers or pita chips. Virtually anything will work as a “raft”. Or you could use beautiful green endive spears to go with the bright red duck and jam making this very festive for Christmas and New Year’s Eve!
I had frozen puff pastry available and made small rectangular crisps. When working with puff pastry, you must poke holes in it to keep it from puffing up too high. Simple baguette slices would also be delicious, or you could use phyllo pastry to make baked triangles. Cut the phyllo into 3-inch wide strips, place a dab of cherry jam at one end, top with a small piece of duck, roll up into triangles and bake until browned and crispy.
This is the perfect appetizer for holiday parties and special events. It is beautiful and everyone will beg you for the recipe. Enjoy!
- 1-1/2 to 2 lb smoked duck breast, most of fat removed, sliced very thinly
- 4 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
- 2 eggs, beaten well (for egg wash)
- 2-1/4 cups cherry jam, or any other flavor combination you like
- 1-3/4 cups cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, or other full bodied red wine
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
- 1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 2 to 4 tbsp sugar, or as needed depending on sweetness of jam
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional
- Simple syrup or agave nectar, as needed
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Set racks in center of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
- Remove fat from duck breast and thinly slice. Reserve fat for later use. Set duck slices aside.
- To Make Pastries: Once puff pastry has thawed, roll out on a lightly floured surface to approximately a 16” x 10” rectangle. Using a 3-inch round or square cookie cutter cut out 15 pieces from each sheet. Discard scraps. Place on prepared baking sheets. Prick all over with a fork and brush with egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Note: You can also use other simple shapes such as hearts if you like.
- To Make Jam: In a medium saucepan, combine jam and wines. Whisk until smooth. Add cinnamon stick, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, and cranberries. Stir until combined. Taste and add sugar as needed. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, at a slow simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until thickened and syrupy. Remove from heat and cool. Taste and add lemon juice and/or simple syrup or agave nectar as needed. Jam will thicken as it cools.
- To Assemble: Place a small dollop of jam on each piece of pastry. Top with a couple slices of duck and top with another dollop of jam. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Alternately, you can serve this on lightly toasted baguette slices, thin neutral-flavored crackers, or pita chips.
- Yield: about 60 (3-inch) pieces
- MAKE AHEAD
- - The jam can be made up to a week ahead and kept refrigerated.
- - The duck can be sliced a day ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- - The pastries can be baked up to 4 hours ahead of serving. Keep them in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
- Appetizers can be assembled and placed on serving platters up to 2 hours ahead; place duck directly on pastry and top with a dollop of jam. Otherwise pastry will become soggy. Wrap with plastic and leave on counter – do not refrigerate.