Students at work.
Photography by June Naylor



Serves 4
At Dunbrody House, duck is sourced from a West Cork provider called Skeaghanore. Chefs like this plump, farm-raised bird because it’s all-natural and wonderfully flavorful. It was specially selected for inclusion in a gift basket presented to Queen Elizabeth on her recent visit to the English Market in Cork. About 12 to 18 hours before preparing, brine the duck in water in which you’ve dissolved salt and sugar.

4 duck breasts (about 6
   to 8 ounces each),
   with skin scored in
   criss-cross marks
2 teaspoons coarse sea 
   salt, divided use
Zest and juice of
   one lemon
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat the oven to
350 degrees.

To prepare the duck, rub one teaspoon of salt into the scored skin of the duck breasts. Over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof pan, sear duck breasts skin-side down first for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and sear for 3 or 4 minutes on the other side. Transfer pan to the oven and roast for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set breasts aside on a warm plate to rest.

Make the reduction in the hot pan, draining off fat from the pan juices. Add honey, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice and zest to the pan and stir gently. Cook over high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until nicely thickened. Slice duck breast and transfer to serving plates. Drizzle with reduction and serve with your favorite vegetables.

This first day, we work through a list of recipes from Clemot’s kitchen-larder list, creating sweet chile jam, pesto, red onion marmalade, chutneys, balsamic reduction, beef stock, fish stock, and the like. Most of these show up in work we produce as the week continues. Before the morning is up, we’ve also created soups such as tomato-basil, carrot-ginger, curried sweet potato, and French onion.

Day One also has us baking a variety of breads, utilizing fresh yeast to create beautiful rosemary-flecked baguettes and focaccia, the latter serving as our first lunch together, topped with fresh cheeses from nearby Cork-area dairies, vegetables we pluck from the Dunbrody kitchen garden, and our own pesto. Clemot teaches us easy tricks, such as adding barley malt extract to help in proofing the bread, and how kneading with just two fingers of each hand keeps the dough from sticking to our palms.

It’s also in this fully packed first day that we master the timeless art of baking Irish brown bread, the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted, thanks to an inclusion of treacle and a scattering of pistachio nuts on top. Though our week progresses with evermore sophisticated dish preparations, we find ourselves circling back for pieces of the comforting brown bread, so simple and enjoyable with Dunbrody’s Irish whiskey marmalade and cups of strong tea.

On Day Two Clemot teaches us to perfect breakfast dishes that include impossibly billowy pancakes with caramelized apples, magnificent scones, and eggs Florentine, the latter giving me the chance to take down that hollandaise preparation that has eluded me for years. That afternoon, Clemot leads us through a whirlwind tour of pastries and desserts, helping us tackle different doughs for shortbread, puff pastry, and sweet pastry, all before we whip up indulgent chocolate fondants, chocolate mousse, and beautiful lemon tarts.

When I’m dubious that I’m any match for the art of making pastry, Clemot delves into my concerns. Me: “Too many rules.” Clemot: “But sometimes you can bend the rules.” Me: “In pastry?!”  Clemot: “Well, you have to know the rules in order to bend them.”

Dunbrody’s executive chef, Rob Krawczyk, steps in for the rest of our week, as Clemot makes a trip home to France. Krawczyk’s natural shyness melts a smidge when we meet his challenge of breaking down a whole pig with hundreds of questions. Krawczyk, delighted that we don’t shrink away from the very raw work in front of us, does relieve us by doing the hardest work — that which involves a saw — himself. But we are fascinated with the process by which a rack of ribs becomes perfectly trimmed, a ham is prepared for smoking, and pork belly turns into that miraculous delicacy that’s the rage on both sides of the pond.

Undaunted by all rumors to the contrary, we find that making sausage involves fun, thanks to teamwork and a great deal of laughter. We spice our varieties up with fresh herbs — again, plucked from the garden just outside the kitchen door — as well as crushed red chiles and toasted nuts.