Another year is almost over. 2015 was full of real highs and then sudden darkness looming. As a mother, one look in my child’s eyes leaves me with only hope for the future. As always, in order to focus on the enjoying the present and hoping for the future, we fix our gaze firmly on friends and family. New Year’s Eve will be spent sharing a meal with loved ones.
Traditionally in Italy, New Year’s Eve (also known as San Silvestro) is celebrated by eating the symbolic dish of lentils and cotechino (a gelatinous sausage made with pork rind mixed with meat) at midnight. The lentils are symbolic of an abundance of money and good luck. The rich cotechino or zampone (a pork sausage made of pork meat, rind and fat encased in the boned hind trotter of a pig) is to bring richness in life in the new year. Both cotechino and zampone were invented in 1511 when the town of Mirandola was under siege by the armies of Pope Giulio II and the townsfolk hid and preserved the meat in pig skin (cotechino) and trotters (zampone). Grape and raisin-based desserts are on the menu as grapes represent abundance, fertility and good fortune.
We are having a more modern celebration involving the de rigueur sparkling wine (can be champagne, Franciacorta or Prosecco). I chose another rich dish which is more appealing to the younger members of the family – duck with cherry sauce. This is a recipe from the Padova area in the Veneto and there is a similar recipe of duck with fruit that can be made with grapes or cherries, pears, lemon and apples. Marasche are sour cherries which are traditionally used in the sauce. I use more readily available dried cherries and cook them in red wine (I use Valpolicella for its already cherry-like qualities). I then compensate for their relative sweetness with a bit of vinegar which also provides a foil for the fatness of the duck. This dish also pairs nicely with lentils, if you are superstitious or just don’t want to chance it. This recipe is very elegant in presentation but is simple and quick to make, leaving you free to spend time with loved ones.
Magrone d’anatra con marasche (duck with cherry sauce)
4 duck breasts, rinsed, dried and skin scored (do not cut the meat)
1 branch rosemary, rinsed, dried, leaves removed and finely chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, rinsed, dried, leaves removed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Cherry red wine sauce:
200 mls red wine (suggested are valpolicella, valtellina or nebbiolo)
60 grams dried cherries
10 mls red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Place all the ingredients into a small saucepan and cook until the liquid has reduced by 70% (20 to 30 min). It should be slightly syrupy and sticky.
Heat the oven to 220C. Mix together the rosemary, thyme, sea salt and sugar. Rub the mixture onto the duck breasts. Score the skin of the duck. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and when hot, add the duck breast skin side down without oil for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Pour off the oil and turn the breast over for 30 seconds.
Bake the breast in the heated oven for 10 to 20 minutes (10 minutes for rare, 15 for medium and 20 minutes for well done) until still pink inside. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve with the cherry wine sauce.
Happy New Year!
What are you eating to celebrate the New Year? Please share below.