FOR THE CHUTNEY
Pit the cherries by pushing on each with the back of a knife, then squeezing out the pit, or by using a cherry pitter. Set aside. You should have a little over 2 cups.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add the onion and the celery. Sauté, stirring, until the onion is nearly translucent, about 2 minutes. Add all but about ¼ cup of the cherries, the vinegar and ginger. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, and pressing the cherries with the back of a wooden spoon, until slightly thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir in the honey and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has thickened and the onions, celery and cherries have somewhat dissolved, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let cool slightly, then taste, adding more salt if desired. Set aside until ready to use.
Cut the remaining cherries in half and set aside.
When ready to serve, reheat the chutney over low heat, stirring constantly. When warm, add the remaining cherries.
FOR THE DUCK
Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin and into the fat, but not into the meat, in a cross-hatch pattern, allowing about ½ inch between the cuts. Pat the meat dry and season both sides well with salt and pepper.
When ready to cook, smear 1 tablespoon butter in a frying pan. Place the duck breasts skin side down on top of the butter in the pan, then place the pan over medium heat. Slow cooking in the warming pan will allow the fat between the skin and the meat to render out over time, while still creating the crisp skin you are looking for. Continue to cook over medium heat until the skin is crisp and golden, about 7 to 8 minutes for large, thick breasts.
Turn each breast over to brown the underside, using a pastry brush to baste the crispy skin on top with the honey. Continue to cook until the meat is rare to medium-rare, 4 to 6 minutes. Before finishing, use tongs to hold the breasts on their sides to quickly sear those as well.
Remove to a cutting board and let stand for 5 minutes before carving into ½-inch-thick slices.
To serve, arrange the slices on 4 pre-warmed dinner plates, drizzle with juices from the cutting board and spoon the warm cherry and onion chutney around the duck.
About this recipe
FIND OUT MORE
For the full list of what's in season this spring, check out EdibleMarinAndWineCountry.com.