Crisp Duck Breast with Truffle Celery Puree

There are so many variations of classic dishes made from duck.  The most famous?  Hard to say, but Peking duck and Duck a l’orange are clearly outstanding.  There’s Long Island duck, duck confit, duck foie gras, and so on.  Duck is prepared uniquely worldwide, and looking at each region’s specific preparation is a great way to summarize the region’s culinary history.  It’s just one of those things.  It’s like a spokesperson for the area’s food.  Chinese make Peking duck, 100% in their style.  French do duck a l’orange.  Again, 100% French.  And so on.

Duck is also one of those rare delicacies that no ones seems to make at home.  Why is that?  Too fatty?  Always turns out greasy?   Don’t know how to prepare it?  Intimidating?  Not worth the effort?  Who wants to eat duck when chicken is much easier?

All good points.  I agree with each one.

It is a lot of effort, and if done even slightly wrong, will be too fatty.  Chicken is easier.  Who is going to make duck a l’orange or Peking duck at home for dinner?

Do I cook duck on a regular basis at home?  No way.

But, I also don’t eat prime rib roast at home all the time either.  Prime rib roast is also delicious, requires a tremendous amount of work and skill, and is almost always saved for a special occasion.  So why not duck? Once in a while, when the motivation is there, it’s a great change of pace.

Duck breast is not all that hard to cook.  There are three golden rules:

1.  Score the skin.  This allows seasoning to permeate into the meat, and the fat layer to render out.

2.  Start the duck in a cold, un-oiled pan.  With all the natural fat you will render, there is no need for extra.  Beginning in a cold pan gives the fat a chance to completely render before the skin browns and crisps.

3.  Make sure the skin is crisp and completely rendered before you remove it from the pan.  This is accomplished by keeping the breast in the pan, skin side down, for the majority of the cooking time.

Duck is, of course, considered a game bird, and with most game meats, there is no reason or benefit of cooking it well done.  Aside from the skin, the meat itself is dark and lean.  Cooking it well done will leave it tough and dry.  Medium is the ideal temp.

Crisp Duck Breast with Truffle Celery Puree

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Inactive cooking time: 2 hours
Yield: 4 small portions

Ingredients:

2 duck breasts, skin on, trimmed of excess fat
2 medium sized celery roots, washed
3 tbsp white truffle oil
2 tbsp chopped black truffles (canned, they are cheap)
chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp whole unsalted butter, reserve 2
few sprigs fresh thyme
2 shallots, sliced
kosher salt
cracked black pepper

Scored Duck Breast

Method:

Using a very sharp small knife, gently score the skin of the duck breast into an x pattern, making sure not to cut all the way to the meat.  Place in a refrigerator for a couple of hours UNCOVERED.  This dries the skin a little, giving it a better sear later on.

Just prior to cooking the duck breast, you will want to make the puree.  Using a knife, peel the celery root, roughly dice into 1 inch cubes, and place in a medium sized heavy bottom sauce pot.  Add the shallot and cream.  Cover with chicken chicken, add the 2 tbsp butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer, gently, until very tender.  Using a ladle or slotted spoon, remove the celery root from the pot and place in a bar blender.  Ladle a little of the cooking liquid into the blender and puree.  You will need to turn the machine off several times and force the celery root down with the ladle as you do this.  Add more liquid per necessity.  Your final consistency should be that of loose mashed potatoes.  The puree should not be viscous; it should be thick.  Add the butter and, truffle oil and chopped truffles.  Season one more time with salt and pepper.  Keep covered in a warm place.

Cooking the duck breasts properly is remarkably simply.  Remove the duck from the refrigerator, and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Place in a COLD, dry, heavy bottom saute pan skin side down.  Put on high heat, and let the duck begin rendering.  As the duck fat renders, turn the heat down to medium.  When the skin becomes golden brown, flip, and sear the other side.  If too much fat accumulates in the pan, you may discard about half.  Continue flipping the breast until both sides are deeply  golden brown.  You will find that you will spend about 75% of the cooking time with the skin side down.  You want the skin to be crisp and fully rendered out.  The temp of the meat, ideally, should be medium.  Remember, duck is a game bird, not chicken.  The breast does not, and should not be cooked well done.

Let the duck rest 5 minutes.  Slice thinly.  Place a large spoonful of the puree on the bottom of a place and fan the duck breast on the very top, in the center.  Serve right away.

This goes best with many sauces, the classic being gastrique.  Bitter cherries, lingonberries, or even red wine sauce go wonderfully with the duck.  The duck itself takes spices well.  The Moroccan spice blend is a great compliment: (http://chefnotebook.blogspot.com/2012/08/moroccan-spice-mix.html).  Sauteed brussel sprouts, glazed carrots, wilted winter greens, pomegranate seeds, and so on all work well with this.

Garnish with either micro celery or a few celery leaves.

Enjoy.

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