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Crispy Duck Breast on Celeriac Purée with Braised Duck Leg, Winter Greens and Pomegranate Peppercorn Sauce

Crispy Duck Recipe

Long winter nights can make people want heartier meals that fill the stomach and warm the soul. Duck is a great cold-weather dish with rich flavors and naturally moist and crisp skin that go well in a warm salad, first course, or main dish. Since there are many duck varieties, there are many ways to prepare duck.

In the United States, 95% of commercially produced ducks consumed are White Pekin. This breed of duck was brought from China in the mid to late 1800s and found its home in the Long Island area of New York. Today, it is referred to as “Long Island Duck.” The duck more typically consumed in Europe is the Muscovy (or Barbary) duck. The Muscovy, originally from the hotter regions of Central and South America, has less fat, tends to be a larger bird, and is traditionally raised for its breast meat and liver. The crossbreeding of the Pekin and Muscovy ducks produces “moulards,” a sterile hybrid, which are used in the production of foie gras.

In this dish, we have combined the Pekin duck with the earthy flavors of celeriac (celery root) and the bitterness of winter greens. These flavors are both complemented and contrasted by the sweetness of pomegranate and the spiciness of green peppercorns.

Ingredients

Duck and Duck Stock

  • Pekin duck — whole (5 to 6 lb. or about 2.5 kg) 1 each
  • Salt, kosher 1 tbsp. (15 mL)
  • Black pepper, cracked 1 tbsp. (15 mL)
  • Oil, vegetable 2 tbsp. (30 mL)
  • Carrots, diced 2 cups (500 g)
  • Onions, diced 2 cups (500 g)
  • Celery, diced 2 cups (500 g)
  • Bay leaves, whole 2 each
  • Thyme, fresh 1 tbsp. (15 mL)
  • Red wine 1 cup (250 mL)
  • Water 4 cups (1 liter)
  • Veal Demi Glacé (or ½ beef stock, ½ chicken stock) 4 cups (1 liter)

Celeriac Purée

  • Celeriac brushed, washed, and diced 3 lbs. (1.35 kg) (leaves and stems removed)
  • Yellow onion, diced 1 cup (250 g)
  • Whole milk ¼ cup (60 mL)
  • Whole butter, diced ½ lb (225 g)
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste

Braised Winter Greens

  • Swiss chard, washed and large chopped 1 bunch
  • Turnip or mustard greens, washed and large chopped 1 bunch
  • Rapini, washed and large chopped 1 bunch
  • Kale, washed and large chopped 1 bunch
  • Vegetable oil ½ tbsp. (7 mL)
  • Yellow onion, diced 1 cup (250 g)
  • Garlic, freshly minced 2 tbsp. (30 mL)
  • Smoked bacon, diced 1 lb (450 g)
  • Shredded duck legs (see duck recipe above) All
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste

Pomegranate Peppercorn Sauce

  • Pomegranate seeds ½ cup (125 g)
  • Green peppercorns 1 tsp. (5 mL)
  • Brown sugar, packed 1 tsp. (5 mL)
  • Stock from duck (see duck recipe above) 2 cup (500 mL)
  • Whole butter ¼ lb (115 g)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450F (232C) degrees.

Cleaning the Duck

  • Remove the liver, gizzards, and heart from the duck and discard.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut off the wings and reserve for later use.
  • Using kitchen shears, cut alongside the backbone from the end of the tail to the neck on both sides of the backbone.
  • Reserve the backbone for later use.
  • Remove the thigh and legs from each side of the duck, keeping the leg and thigh connected.
  • Locate the bone between the breasts, called the “keel” bone.
  • Make a very shallow cut from the neck along the keel bone, following the curve of the breast.
  • Use your fingers to gently pull the breast away from the body.
  • Use the tip of your knife to cut down the breast in short increments and slowly separate the breast meat from the ribs.
  • Reserve cleaned duck carcass for later use.
  • Liberally season the duck breasts, legs, and thighs with salt and pepper.
  • Place the breasts to the side in a cool, but not refrigerated, area and lightly cover with a towel.

Duck Legs/Thighs

  • Place the duck leg/thigh pieces on a clean sheet pan and place in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the skin is crisp.
  • Remove the cooked duck leg/thighs from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Once the leg/thighs are cool to the touch, shred the meat from the legs and thighs, and reserve for later use.

Duck Stock

  • Place a large stock pot over medium heat.
  • Add oil to the pot and heat oil for 1 minute.
  • Add the carrots, onion, and celery to the pot and lightly saute until the onions are transparent.
  • Add the duck wings, backbone, carcass, and the cleaned leg/thigh bones to the pot and saute with the vegetables for 5 minutes while stirring the mixture.
  • Add red wine and reduce the volume by three quarters.
  • Add the thyme and bay leaves.
  • Add water and increase heat until the liquid boils. Reduce heat to a high simmer.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Remove pan from the heat and drain the liquid through a fine sieve.
  • Discard the bones and vegetables.
  • Return the stock to the pot and replace on the stove over medium heat.
  • Add veal demi glacé and reduce volume by half.
  • Remove from heat and save for future use.

Celeriac Purée

  • Place diced celeriac and onions in a medium stock pot and cover with water.
  • Bring water to a rapid boil.
  • Cook the celeriac and onions until fork-tender and then drain using a colander.
  • Return the mix to the pot and, using a stick blender, purée until there are no lumps.
  • Add milk and butter and, using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients together.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Cover and reserve for later.

Braised Duck Leg Winter Greens

  • Add oil to a large sauce pan and turn heat to medium.
  • Add bacon to the pan and cook until crisp.
  • Drain half the oil off the pan.
  • Add onion and cook until browned.
  • Add garlic and stir to keep the garlic from burning.
  • Add all of the greens and cook until the greens are completely wilted.
  • Add shredded duck leg/thigh meat and lightly mix, careful not to break the duck into pieces that are too small.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cover and reserve for future use.

Final Dish Preparation

  • Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Using a paring knife, score the skin in a crosshatch pattern.
  • Pat the breast dry with a clean paper towel.
  • Using a set of tongs, carefully lay the seasoned, clean duck breast (skin side down) in the pan.
  • Cook the skin side of the breast for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, draining the excess fat out of the pan, until the skin is mahogany in color.
  • Turn the breast over and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Remove the breast from the pan and place to the side to allow the breast to rest.
  • In the same pan, add the duck stock, brown sugar and peppercorns and bring to a light boil.
  • While stirring the liquid, whisk in small pieces of the butter until the liquid starts to thicken.
  • Add the pomegranate seeds and taste for salt and pepper.

Plate Up

  • On a clean dinner plate or large bowl, place a large scoop of the celeriac purée in the middle of the plate.
  • Place the braised duck leg winter greens off to one side.
  • With a sharp knife, slice the crispy duck breast into three equal pieces and fan them over the top of the celeriac purée.
  • Using a spoon, ladle the pomegranate peppercorn sauce around the plate.
  • Enjoy!

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