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The Perfect Date Night Recipe: Seared Duck with Date Jus and Cheese Ravioli with Piave Sauce

The Perfect Date Night Recipe: Seared Duck with Date Jus and Cheese Ravioli with Piave Sauce
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         I realize that most people take ‘date night’ to mean an escape from cooking as well as the kids.  But once in a while, a great meal can turn any night into date night.  And this one is flawless. It combines the luxury of duck breast with the sweet and entirely unexpected flavor of a date jus. (Yes, I know, the other kind of date). On the same plate, pillows of cheese ravioli are sauced with a sublimely rich and tart cheese sauce using the Italian cheese, Piave.
Chinon from the Loire Valley
Your cooking skills can be fairly rudimentary.  As long as you’ve got a grip on how to sear meat on the stovetop, and literally, boil water for the Ravioli, you’ve got it made. I would even go so far as to say that this is the perfect dish for anyone—man or woman— to cook and gain instant cooking credibility with whomever he or she is trying to impress.  It’s also blessedly simple and its timing includes includes oven time and resting time so the required 1hr 15 minutes can be punctuated by sips of a great red wine.  Food and Wine, where this recipe was found, recommends Chinon, a ‘fresh and supple red wine’ made with a Cabernet Franc or Breton grape in the Loire Valley of France.

Chef Eric Algorri of Augustine

If you want to sample this dish and avoid cooking altogether, go to Augustine  (13456 Ventura Blvd, Tel 818 900 0938 although they only take walk-ins) in Sherman Oaks, CA where the dish was created by Chef Eric Algorri.  Augustine, named by Food and Wine as one of America’s best new wine bars, features more than 50 wines by the glass.  Chef Algorri’s task was the complement these wines with small plates.  The chef has a compelling resume: he previously worked at New York titans Marea, Bouley, Union Square Café and Lupa.  His pan European offerings include lots of exotic takes on bar food–tater tots(!) and spiced nuts tossed with pimento and brown sugar.  Moving up in size is the duck and this recipe is an adaptation of the one Augustine serves with duck ravioli, date jus and rutabaga purée.  For Food and Wine, the recipe was pared down to the Duck breast, date jus and a note that it was served with homemade cheese ravioli. I used fresh ravioli from Fairway. Since you can find fresh pasta in virtually every supermarket and that’s what to look for.

The Piave was completely new to me and a revelation. Apparently it’s also a revelation to people at Fairway since the store decided to phonetically spell it on the price tag: PEE YA VEY. It’s a cow’s milk cheese made in the Dolomites province of Belluno.  That’s all the way north in the Veneto region where the Piave River flows.  It starts out with a slightly sweet flavor but as it ages, it develops an intense, full-bodied flavor. If you can’t find it, you can likely substitute young Parmigiano Reggiano to achieve this wonderfully intense flavor in your sauce.  The date jus is about as simple a preparation as can be. It involves halving and pitting a container of dates, combining them with a sprig of rosemary and lots of water and just sitting back and letting it form a rich red sauce which you mash with a wooden spoon and strain into a pot. I then let the sauce simmer on the stove while I cooked everything else.  Here is the recipe:

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