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Saturday, 12 November 2011

Crispy duck breast with fig and port sauce

In an effort to impress Taryn's parents, I cooked this the first time I ever made them dinner.  I chose it not just because it's relatively easy to make , presents beautifully and tastes amazing but because people in English Canada rarely seem to eat duck and almost never do so outside of a restaurant (in Quebec you can buy duck at the IGA but they're more enlightened when it comes to food) so I thought it might be different and unexpected to get it at home.  I'm tempted to blame the war on fat for our general lack of duck-home-cookery as it's fantastically rich, however, I don't think duck was a staple of many English Canadian households even before the war started which is a shame.  Duck is a fabulous meat that is surprisingly versatile.  It stands up well to deeper flavours such as those in this recipe that wouldn't go well with beef and would overwhelm chicken and it can be cooked in a wide variety of ways.  Of all the ways we prepare duck I think this is my personal favorite.

Makes 2-3 servings:

1 duck breast
3 large figs, two of them diced, one of them quartered
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch of arugula washed and stems removed
⅓ cup walnuts or pecans
½ cup ruby port
⅓ cup duck, veal or other light stock
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
⅓ tsp each of ground allspice, black pepper and salt
1 tsp butter

Slice through the skin and fat but not the meat of the duck breast in a cross hatch pattern.  This will allow the skin to shrink without deforming the breast and let the fat render out.  Mix the spices together and rub them into the skin side of the duck.

Place the duck skin side down in an oven safe pan over medium low heat and cook until almost all of the fat has rendered out (10-15 minutes or so).  You’re only looking to crisp the skin and get rid of the fat, not to cook the whole duck breast.

While duck is cooking, add balsamic vinegar to a small frying pan or sauce pot and bring to a simmer.  When the vinegar is reduced by 2/3rds and starts to thicken, add in the walnuts, stir to coat and remove from heat.

When most of the fat has rendered from the duck, drain off the fat (reserve for another use), flip the breast over and put in oven at 400F until the duck reads ~130 on a thermometer (10 minutes or so).  It should be pink when cut and resemble medium rare steak.  Remove the duck to a plate and let rest covered in foil or another plate.

To make the sauce, drain off all but 1 teaspoon of the remaining duck fat from pan, add in the shallots, garlic and diced figs and saute over high heat until the shallots are soft.  Add in the port and stock and simmer until reduced by half.  Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove shallots and figs and continue to simmer the liquid until reduced by half again.  Stir in butter and remove from heat.

Put arugula on plates, sprinkle with the glazed walnuts.  Top it off with 2 or 3 slices of duck and drizzle with sauce, garnish with quartered figs and serve.

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