|Pan-Seared Duck Breast with Red Wine Reduction and Roasted Winter Vegetables|
I'm going to level with you.
My last couple of months, for the most part, hasn't been my finest work here. My desire to prepare food has been present but writing about said dishes has become a grind for me. It's interesting because I have noticed my food inspiration has evolved over time. When I started this website, my focus was food preparation that is unusual or difficult for a home cook with no professional training, however I'm finding that my most inspired work has been when I can compose a dish. I may still rely upon techniques drawn from other sources but putting these elements together in a harmonious fashion with some assistance from The Flavor Bible is what I've enjoyed the most. Some examples might include my ravioli dish from January 2013, my scallops dish from February 2014 and my salmon guest post for my friend, Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic in March of 2014. I had even considered retiring this website and starting a new one where the title would be the name of a fictitious restaurant and posts would be menu items, taking inspiration from ingredients that come in and out of season in addition to current food trends.
There's no reason I can't do that here. This particular dish pairs an ingredient I had not previously prepared with a dish composition challenge (i.e. pairing foods together). The fact of the matter is I had been planning this dish for some time now. Last summer, I remember my friend, Lori from Foxes Loves Lemons was frustrated by the filling of a cherry pie she replicated from a magazine cover so I suggested she repurpose it and pair it with a duck breast because I remember noting it in The Flavor Bible. A couple of months later, I was in the local Whole Foods Market and remembered my suggestion, so I thought I'd price out duck breast while I was there. As with many items there, the price was too steep for me but the meat manager there suggested a whole frozen duck instead which was about half as much. He even offered to defrost it and butcher the bird if I called a day ahead. Last week, I finally took him up on his offer.
Successfully execute an ingredient I had not previously prepared
To prepare the duck, I adapted a dish from pages 152 to 153 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer and paired it with an adaptation of Martha Stewart's port wine reduction. To complement the dish, I adapted Ina Garten's roasted vegetables found on foodnetwork.com.
1 parsnip, trimmed of both ends, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice
1 turnip, trimmed of both ends, peeled and cut into a 1-inch dice
6 ounces fingerling potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped, plus 2 whole sprigs, divided
3 tablespoons rendered duck fat
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pekin duck breasts
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
3/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Arugula leaves (for garnish)
1. Roast the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, toss the parsnip, turnip and potatoes with the duck fat and chopped thyme and season with salt and pepper. Empty the vegetables in a single layer onto a aluminum foil-lined sheet pan and place in the oven until the vegetables are fork tender, approximately 45 minutes.
2. Prepare the duck. While your vegetables roast, score the duck by cutting through the skin in an cross-hatch pattern about 3/4-inch wide deep enough to pierce through the layer of fat but not through the meat, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Coat a large pan with a thin stream of olive oil and add the duck breasts with the skin side down. Heat the pan to low in order to render the duck fat slowly until you can see the meat through the score marks, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. As the duck fat renders, scoop it out of the pan and save it for other uses. Once all the fat has rendered, raise the heat to medium and brown both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side, then remove the breasts to a plate to allow for carryover cooking, approximately 5 minutes, then slice the breasts on a bias.
3. Prepare the reduction. Remove any duck fat from the pan in excess of 1 tablespoon and add the shallots to the pan to sweat, approximately 2 minutes. Deglaze with the wine and stock, scraping any fond stuck from the bottom of the pan, then raise the heat to medium-high and reduce the sauce to 1/3 cup. Stir in the butter and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. To plate, spoon some sauce on a warmed plate, then fan 3 to 4 slices of duck over the sauce. Spoon some vegetables to the side and garnish with arugula.
The idea from this dish came from a flavor affinity of duck, parsnips and turnips in The Flavor Bible, which also notes arugula. I highly recommend getting a copy if you don't have one. In fact, Christina of Mama's High Strung is giving a copy away on her website right now in a Valentine's Cookbook Affair Giveaway.
Other giveaways include:
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Regarding the dish itself, Chef Burrell instructs her readers to finish the duck in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit for 5 to 6 minutes but I found the duck to be cooked past medium rare which is ideal. It was still a well balanced dish. I might even put the dish on that fictitious restaurant I referred to above. In addition, I do have plans for the other duck parts, however I'll save them for future posts.