Carolyn Eichin: Duck dish takes a diner back to medieval times
For the Nevada Appeal
Chef Richard Oates of the new Core @ the Cider Factory Restaurant in beautiful Virginia City (yes, beautiful since the blue skies are back and the smoke has cleared) has kindly shared with us his recipe for medieval duck. The Core is in the Cider Factory stone building behind Edith Palmer’s Country Inn at South B Street. Chef Richard and Alexia are working hard to please the most sophisticated palate in town — and doing a great job.
The Cider Factory is one of the oldest buildings in Virginia City, dating at least to 1864. Ellis Morton, a New Englander, set up his cider-production business in 1863 on B Street. By 1864 he was producing syrups, bitters, essences, champagne cider and vinegar — everything the Civil War-era homemaker needed to create palatable fare. Newspaperman and journalist Alf Doten explained the ciders in an article to the folks back home. Morton made Oregon Cider, Newark Cider and Champagne cider without “so much as the smell of an apple paring.”
Morton mixed water, sugar, tartaric acid and hop yeast and flavored the cider to suit. Not “intoxicative,” the drinks were an alternative to “vile, intoxicating, and soul-destroying” drink. Doten described the “fine stone warehouse,” now the Cider Factory restaurant, as having sleeping quarters upstairs for the factory’s hired men. Doten would later occupy the sleeping quarters, creating a two-room apartment in the loft over the storeroom, where he lived for a few months until Morton sold the property in 1867.
The Cider Factory has seen many business endeavors in the many years between its opening and the present, but one surely to create a sensation with restaurant-goers is the new Core. Stylish American cuisine with a touch of European flair best describes the menu, which changes periodically based on the availability of fresh ingredients. Richard likes to cruise the farmer’s markets in search of the finest heirloom tomatoes or best fresh greens, then create his plates around seasonal fruits and vegetables. The Medieval Duck takes a little time to create, but the wait is well worth the results.
2 duck breasts
2 cups honey
½ cup minced garlic
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped lemon grass
8 cups boiling water
¼ bottle red wine
1 teaspoon olive oil
Mix 1 cup honey, the garlic, onion and lemon grass in a large mixing bowl. Add the duck breasts to the mixture and coat thoroughly. Add boiling water to duck and marinade. Let the duck sit in the hot water and marinade mixture until it comes to room temperature — approximately four hours. Refrigerate duck in the marinade overnight.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan on the stove until very hot and smoking. Using long-handled tongs, carefully place duck breasts, skin-side down, in the hot oil and sear for 2 to 3 minutes until the skin starts to turn black. Flip duck breasts over to sear on the opposite side. Turn the duck again to put the skin side down in the pan and place the sauté pan with duck in a preheated 475-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove cooked duck from the oven and place on a cutting board to rest for a few minutes while preparing sauce. Add the red wine and remaining 1 cup of honey to the sauté pan with any residual melted duck fat left in the pan and boil rapidly for about two minutes, stirring continuously.
Slice duck and serve over greens or vegetables and top with the wine sauce. Chef Richard says, bon appetit.
If you don’t think you are a duck eater, like I thought I was, think again. This is a wonderful, elegant dinner dish befitting a beautiful, historic setting. Virginia City has so much to offer the visitor, and now, one additional fine restaurant may complete your visit with an awe-inspiring dinner.
Carolyn Eichin owns B Street House Bed and Breakfast in Virginia City.