duck breast with apples and tart greens.
love the particular richness of duck — it’s more
assertive than the blank canvas of chicken — but you’ve
never tried to tackle it at home, it’s not as hard as you
for duck at your local supermarket, and odds are you’ll
find the whole bird cryovaced in the freezer section, a
plastic orange sauce packet neatly stuffed into the cavity.
Which is a shame, because there’s so much more to the bird
than duck a l’orange. You could sear a duck breast in
minutes for a quick dinner, or slowly braise duck legs in
their own fat to succulent tenderness in the form of duck
confit. Roast or barbecue the whole bird for a dramatic
presentation for company, or conveniently forget about it
for several hours in your slow cooker for a weeknight meal.
the first-time cook, duck might come across as a little
intimidating. Unlike chicken or turkey, duck is comprised of
all dark meat, including the breasts. But duck is actually
very forgiving in the kitchen. First, unlike other types of
poultry, duck can safely be cooked to a lower temperature
(because it doesn’t carry salmonella). Sear a duck breast
to medium-rare and you’ll find it’s similar to steak in
looks and flavor. And it cooks just as quickly.
believe it or not, duck meat itself is surprisingly lean.
All too often, duck is considered a "fatty" or
"greasy" meat. While you will find a good layer of
fat beneath the skin, it’s not difficult to remove or cook
most of the fat out of the bird before serving. If you’ve
ever enjoyed a seared duck breast, you’ll often find the
crisp skin is marked with a crosshatch pattern. Slicing
through the skin in this way before cooking allows the fat
to drain out as the meat cooks. Likewise, when you roast a
duck, you’ll often find instructions to pierce the skin
with a fork before cooking; this also allows the fat to
drain out easily without soaking the meat and skin.
ever had Peking duck, you’ve likely, hopefully,
appreciated its crackly crisp skin. The traditional
preparation is involved and can take a few days to prepare,
but there are ways to riff on the classic method to achieve
many of the same results. On a traditional Peking duck the
skin is inflated before cooking (picture a bicycle pump or
perhaps a homemade rig involving a turkey baster); this
allows the fat to drain down and out of the bird easily as
it roasts. Instead of this, gently peel the skin away from
the breasts and around the thighs of the bird, as this is
where much of the fat is concentrated. Then ladle boiling
water over the duck; this will melt some of the fat while
tightening the skin itself. And be sure to chill the duck,
uncovered, on a rack in the refrigerator overnight; the cold
air will help to dry the skin out before roasting.
roast the duck vertically over an empty beer can chicken
roaster. (Perhaps you’ve witnessed a beer can chicken: a
whole chicken, wings casually folded behind the neck,
propped up on a beer can or beer can roaster as it leisurely
roasts on the grill.) Vertically roasting will cook the duck
more evenly and help the fat to drain out of the bird,
allowing the skin to crisp.
fat is gold in the kitchen — so save it. Before cooking
duck, remove any large fat pockets and render them gently
over low heat until they melt, then strain to remove any
solids. Duck fat will keep for months in the refrigerator or
freezer. Use it in place of butter or other fats to flavor
everything from vegetables to pie crusts.
duck sometimes has the reputation of being a gamy meat, most
of the duck sold in the U.S. is white Pekin, which is known
for its mild flavor and tender texture. Still, duck can come
across as a little heavier than other types of poultry.
Consider adding bright and tart flavors when cooking or
serving duck. Pair duck breast with stewed tart cherries or
apple slices, or flavor whole duck with a rich pomegranate
molasses rub before roasting. And instead of weighing the
duck down in a heavy cassoulet or ragout, serve it alongside
a simple salad with a light, acidic vinaigrette.
and as for that packet of orange sauce, you can toss it in
4 to 6
to 6-pound) duck
teaspoon freshly ground pepper
tablespoons pomegranate molasses (maple syrup can be
teaspoon whole yellow mustard seeds, toasted and ground
Bring a pot of water to boil.
While the water is heating, place the duck on a cutting
board, breast-side up and with the legs facing you. Remove
any large pockets of fat around the cavity, then gently but
firmly begin loosening the skin from the meat, starting at
the cavity opening by the legs. You will want to loosen the
skin over the breast area (from the cavity to the neck) and
around the joint where the thighs meet the body. Be very
careful not to puncture the skin. Do not worry about the
back of the duck.
Place the duck on a rack in the sink. When the water is
boiling, remove from heat and begin ladling the water over
the outside of the duck; you will notice the skin begin to
tighten as it comes in contact with the hot water. Turn the
duck over and repeat, ladling hot water until you see the
skin tighten. Dry the duck well, and place it on a rack over
a rimmed baking sheet.
a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, molasses and ground
mustard to form a paste. Massage this paste over the entire
outer surface of the duck, coating the skin until it looks
tanned. Place the duck, uncovered, in the refrigerator and
chill at least 12 hours, preferably 24.
Remove the duck from the refrigerator 1/2 hour before
roasting. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a rack at
the lowest position of the oven to give the duck enough room
to stand as it roasts.
Place a beer can chicken holder on a rimmed baking sheet or
shallow roasting pan. Stand the duck on the beer can chicken
holder (if the holder is too small to support the duck,
first place an empty beer can in the holder), and fold the
wings behind the neck. Carefully move the duck to the oven.
Roast the duck for 15 minutes to give it time to begin to
color. If the duck colors too quickly at the top, tent the
top of the duck loosely with foil. After 15 minutes, reduce
the heat to 350 degrees and continue to roast until the duck
is a rich brown color, about 1 hour. Remove from heat and
set aside to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
This recipe calls for a beer can chicken holder, available
at many grilling and hardware stores, as well as online.
DUCK BREASTS WITH APPLE AND TART GREENS
to 10-ounce) duck breasts
ground black pepper
tablespoons minced shallots
teaspoon chopped thyme
teaspoon chopped rosemary
tablespoons maple syrup
cup plus 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
tablespoons olive oil
loosely packed tart greens, such as frisee, mache or arugula
3 to 4
tablespoons vegetable oil
apples, such as McIntosh or Granny Smith, cored and cut into
tablespoons brown sugar
ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator. Using a sharp
knife, score the skin in a crisscross pattern without
cutting into the meat. Season the breasts on each side with
a pinch each of salt and pepper. Set aside.
a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, thyme, rosemary,
maple syrup, vinegar and olive oil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon
salt and a grind of black pepper, or to taste. This makes
about 1 cup vinaigrette.
a large bowl, combine the lettuces. Toss the lettuces with
enough vinaigrette to lightly coat, 4 to 5 tablespoons, more
if desired. Set aside.
Heat a cast-iron pan over high heat until hot. Add the
vegetable oil and then add the duck, skin-side up. Sear the
breasts for about 2 minutes to give them some color. Flip
the breasts over and reduce the heat to medium-high.
Continue cooking until the skin is crisp and the breasts
reach the desired doneness, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the
pan and set aside to cool slightly.
Reduce the heat to medium. Drain all but 2 to 3 tablespoons
fat from the pan, and add the apple, along with the brown
sugar. Cook the wedges until slightly softened, 5 to 7
minutes. Increase the heat to medium high and continue to
saute the apple until the sugar caramelizes and the wedges
take on some color, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove
Divide the apples and salad between 4 plates, crumbling the
blue cheese over each salad. Slice the duck breasts on the
bias, and divide the duck between the plates. Serve