Monday, July 12, 2010

Family Vacations and Warm Duck Salad with Gingered Currant Sauce

Many of you may recall that my youngest is away at summer camp in a counselor in training program (CIT) for four weeks this summer. This is the same camp he has attended for the past five years only this year, instead of being just a camper, he is learning to work with children as young as seven years old and also earning his lifeguard, CPR and first aid certifications.

If all goes well, the camp will hire him next year as a junior counselor; a paid position. I have fully supported him in this quest and it seems very likely he will be hired on full time next summer. The other counselors and the camp director have all indicated that they like him, he is responsible and a great candidate.

What I didn't fully realize until yesterday when I took him back from his weekend 'laundry' break is that next year, full time means the ENTIRE summer. From the first weekend after school breaks until the last weekend before Labor Day.

This brings me to the sudden realization that our last 'family vacation' was our last family vacation. I want that time back! With one grown child, two kidadults in college and our youngest in his last two years of high school everyone is running on their own schedules. This past Easter was the first time we went on a 'family' ski trip minus one member. This year, we will be down two members and next summer? All three 'not growns' will be doing their own thing... I am used to the married one being out on his own, but this is getting out of hand. All of them? Leaving us?

We have been blessed with many wonderful, happy memories of travels as a family. Camping across this beautiful country together; rafting the Grand Canyon, riding on horseback into the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, hiking Acadia in Maine and watching the sunrise at the first sunrise spot in the country, atop Mount Cadillac. Iceland - land of opposites, sailing among icebergs in a harbor, bathing in hot springs, hiking a glacier in the land of the midnight sun. South Carolina summers, digging in the sand, laughing as we all tried our hand at surfing, big family BBQs on decks overlooking the ocean - skiing out west and long lazy weekends sliding down slopes here in the north east. Fantastic memories all. Why didn't I know that each and every trip would be leading up to a last trip.

I want my last family vacation back. Had I known it was the last time we would all be together I would have savored it. I would have watched them all more closely. Maybe stayed up later with them. Sang louder at the campfire. Been more patient about clothes and wet towels strewn everywhere. I would have held it all closer in my heart.

With each ending I know there is a beginning, I just have to find the new thread and start it.


Warm Duck Salad with Gingered Currant Sauce (serves 2)

2 boneless duck breasts*
salt and pepper
1/2 pint currants
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
6 to 8 pieces chrystallized ginger
4 cups mixed greens

Take duck breasts out of the refrigerator one hour before cooking. Score the skin on the diagonal, then score again, cutting across the first diagonal to form diamonds. Be careful to not cut into the meat, only down to it. This will aid in releasing the fat under the skin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Wash and spin greens. Plate with two cups salad on each plate. Add any other vegetables you like. I added matchstick carrots, baby heirloom tomatoes and sliced radishes. Set aside.

Pour water and sugar into high sided saucepan and bring to boil. When sugar is dissolved add currants and ginger. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes or until mixture is syrupy and reduced by half. Place in a bowl with a small ladle.

Now place a frying pan over medium high heat and add duck breasts skin side down. Turn flame down to medium and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes. Have a heat proof bowl ready. Pour off the fat as it renders out of the skin and continue to cook until skin is dark and crisp. Turn.

Cook for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Meat should be a rosy pink; medium to ensure it is tender and moist.

Plate duck breasts and let rest for 10 minutes. Tent to keep warm.

Slice duck breasts on the diagonal and arrange slices on top of greens. Spoon currant sauce over meat and serve immediately.

Savor the meal and every moment you get to spend with family and friends. Everything happens in a blink of an eye.

*A Cook's Notes: I like Hudson Valley Cage Free Duck Breasts. And no, they didn't pay me or give me duck breasts to say that - they are just reliably flavorful and moist with an added plus of being humanely raised.


  1. my mom went thru that when i told her i was moving out. But we are now closer than ever. we set aside a few days in the month where we have dinner and go see a movie and i meet my dad for lunch once a week. I really dont remeber ever being this close to my parents- ever.. but i love em!
    YOu might start to like cooking for two! :-)
    I drooled a little and the sight of the duck fat being scored! i love crispy duck fat (im sick i know)

  2. I know exactly what you mean. It went way too fast! I am itching to move closer to my grandson because now I know - those moments are precious and they don't come again. It takes time, but you'll adjust. Once high school hits, it all changes, and prepares you for your empty nest.

    We have each other, right?

  3. Yeah, I remember our last family vacation..then they were gone...

  4. Oh, how well I remember that lost feeling when my children were grown and it was only my husband and myself going to Disneyworld...last family vacation, yes. How sad.

    Have you ever tried this recipe with chicken breasts? I've never had duck.

  5. I have come to realize the same thing about how important it is to spend time with family. In my former life I never took a real vacation, just a day at a time. My wife has taught me to enjoy life and we now look so forward to our times away just enjoying each other away from all the distractions. It is good as well to have all the family together like this past Father's Day and feel the love all around us. What could be better than good food & family. Have a marvelous day.

  6. Mo - crispy duck fat is GOOOOD!

    Nancy - When we are up to our eyeballs in diapers and play dates and soccer and preschool this day seems far away, but it's really just a blink of an eye.

    Buffalo - I want a redo! I didn't know it was our last!!

    Ethelmae - chicken or turkey will work beautifully with this recipe and Disney? I LOVE Disney!! I told TBHITW we are going to have to go to Universal's Harry Potter land by ourselves.

    Odie - "What could be better than good food and family?" Indeed! Those two ingredients are the stuff of life.

  7. You have so many wonderful memories! I bet that wasn't really the LAST LAST family vacation ever. There will be more down the road- with your kids and grandkids and their cousins... right??

    Anyway, this duck looks beautiful. I have been moving for a MONTH and have not been cooking and it is my THERAPY- I need to get back into it STAT- and make some beautiful duck breasts!

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