I just cooked for a fund raising dinner for the Mendocino Music Festival at the North Coast Brewing Company in Fort Bragg, CA.  It was a very enjoyable experience, as Fort Bragg is a colorful old fishing and lumber village on the Mendocino Coast, and the North Coast Brewing Company creates all kinds of amazing beers.  Our pleasurable task was to match food and beer.

Most people are aware of wine and food pairing, but beer and food hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves since craft brews can be much more complex than most wines.  We did a pretty good job with all the dishes and

Brother Thelonious Belgian Abbey Ale, made by North Coast Brewing Co.

brews, but the following match and recipe seemed to get the most attention.  We served the Roast Duck Breasts with Grapefruit with North Coast’s Brother Theolonius.  It’s made in honor of great jazz piano player, Theolonius Monk, and a portion of its sales supports the Monk Institute of Jazz.

Try this pairing and let me know what you think!  I’d also love hear about some of your favorite beer and food pairings.

Serves 4

This recipe could also be done with chicken breasts and pork loin or tenderloin.  You could also prepare the meat on the grill rather than roasting.  My favorite grapefruit are the Texas pinks or reds that come to the market in the October thru June.

1 tablespoon honey
4 grapefruits, 2 squeezed for juice to make marinade and sauce below and 2 sectioned
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or juniper berry
4 duck breast halves (6 – 7 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large bunch watercress, preferably Upland Cress with big stems discarded
Grapefruit sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Whisk the honey 3 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and the allspice together in a small bowl.  Trim the breasts of excess far and score the skin in a crosshatch pattern cutting almost but not quite thru to the meat.  Brush the breasts with the honey mixture, season with salt and pepper and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Heat an ovenproof sauté pan over moderately high heat.  Add the duck breasts skin side down and sear until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Turn the breast over and place in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes more or until meat is medium rare.  Be careful not to overcook.  Remove pan from oven, then remove breast from pan to a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 3 minutes.  Cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

To serve:  Arrange grapefruit sections and watercress on plates.  Thinly slice the duck breasts and arrange on top, spoon warm sauce around and serve immediately.

Note:  For texture I’ll often add some crisp fried parsnips or julienned leeks for garnish.

Grapefruit Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup

This tart-sweet sauce is delicious with all kind of grilled and roasted meat.  Note the addition of the bit of fresh grapefruit juice at the end.  This “brightens” the rich sauce and adds aromatics of the fruit to the finished sauce.

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups rich chicken or duck stock
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon grapefruit juice
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar to a saucepan and cook over high heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture is reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes.  Add the stock and 1 cup of the grape fruit juice and reduce over high heat to 3/4 cup or so, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in the cream and continue to reduce until sauce is nicely thickened, about 5 minutes.  Off heat, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon grapefruit juice, season to your taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.  Can be made ahead and gently reheated.