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Cook the Books: Braised Duck with Vanilla Bean Sauce

This round Rachel, at The Crispy Cook, selected Sustenance & Desire: A Food Lover's Anthology of Sensuality and Humor by Bascove for our December 2014-January 2015 Cook the Books project. Click to see her invitation.

This post contains an Amazon-affiliate link at the bottom 
- for the book.

This was the perfect selection to span the holidays. There was no plot to follow, characters of which to keep track, all the while trying to balance holiday parties and general end-of-the-year mayhem. This was a delightful collection of poems, paintings, and short editorials that could be read, furtively, while waiting for the kids to fall asleep so Santa could crumble the cookies and fill the stockings!

There were many moments of inspiration. I considered doing something with artichokes...

The artichoke
of delicate heart erect
in its battle-dress, builds
its minimal cupola...
-Pablo Neruda
...or something with cheese...

...O cheese of gravity, cheeses of wistfulness, cheeses
that week continually because they know they will die.
O cheeses of victory, cheese wise in defeat, cheeses
fat as a cushion, lolling in bed until noon.
-Donald Hall

In the end, I found inspiration in Natasha Sajé's "Creation Story."

Green pods are cured dark walnut brown.
Sliced open lengthwise: infinitesimal seeds,
printer's ink. Their black flecks ice cream
or a sauce for pheasant...
...From the Spanish vainilla,
diminutive of Latin, vagina,
the term for sheath.

I thought I'd make a vanilla sauce for pheasant, as she mentions. I made Pheasant en Crème for my mom's birthday dinner one year and we thoroughly enjoyed it. But I couldn't find a pheasant this week. So, I decided to make braised duck with vanilla bean sauce instead.

Braised Duck
  • 2 duck legs
  • 2 duck breasts
  • 2 large onions, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thickly sliced
  • 2 C diced celery root
  • 2 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced open lengthwise
Vanilla Bean Sauce
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 vanilla bean
  • 2 sprig rosemary
  • 1/2 C vodka
  • 1 C chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 C cherries
  • olive oil
  • fresh rosemary, for garnish

Braised Duck
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, place duck legs and duck breasts, skin side down. Turn heat to medium. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes until the fat is rendered and the skin golden and crisped.

Flip to the other side and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the duck to a plate. Place the onions, fennel, and celery root in the Dutch oven. Lay the browned duck pieces on top. Pour in the chicken stock and add the vanilla bean. Bring to a boil, cover, and place in the oven. Braise for 90 minutes.

Raise the temperature of the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the cherries in a mixing bowl with a splash of olive oil. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Return the duck to the oven, uncovered, on one rack. Place the cherries on another rack. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes.

Vanilla Bean Sauce
While duck is in the oven, make the vanilla bean sauce. Melt the butter in a large, flat-bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook for one minute, until softened and translucent. Split the vanilla beans and scrape the seeds into the pan, then drop in the pods. Pour in the chicken stock and vodka. Add the rosemary and stir. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half in volume. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Set aside; keep warm.

To serve, plate the duck. Spoon the vanilla bean sauce over the top. Top with a few roasted cherries. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.

This was a treat to read and a treat to eat. I will definitely keep this on my bookshelf for inspiration.

Deb of Kahakai Kitchen selected our February-March selection. Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table by Ruth Reichl. Deadline is March 30th. Hope you'll join us.

*This blog currently has a partnership with in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to and search for the book or item of your choice.


  1. What a sensual and delightful recipe to complement our Cook the Books pick! I am so glad that you enjoyed this book. It was a nice bookish refuge to turn to during the busy holidays. Your saucy duck sounds so delicious.

  2. I am going to keep this sauce in mind. Not only would it be good with waterfowl and gamebirds but I think it would complement poultry and pork too.

    1. It would be delicious on anything, Wendy! Now you have me thinking: on what else can I use it?!?!

  3. What a great choice Camilla! Yum!

  4. This looks so so good! What kind of cherries did you use?

    1. Just regular cherries that I found at WholeFoods. Maybe Bing? I wanted Rainier, but couldn't find any.

  5. I so love duck, and can't wait to try this recipe with vanilla sauce. Good pick!

    1. Thanks, Claudia. It was delicious. I hope you have a chance to try it.

  6. What a gorgeous and sumptuous dish--such a perfect match for the piece. I think I could just eat that vanilla sauce from a spoon and be content. ;-) This was such a fun CTB round--I loved seeing what different works inspired everyone.

    1. I know! I loved the breadth of the selections. What a fun pick.

  7. This was a great post holiday pick. Maybe that is why I enjoyed it so much!

    1. I totally agree. Looking forward to the next book, too.

  8. A sumptuous dish! I am endlessly fascinated by vanilla. Sometimes I just take out a pod and smell it: a simple pleasure.

    1. I love using vanilla in non-sweet applications. It's divine!


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