Cookbook Profile

Duck Breast with Pears,
Walnuts and Belgian Endive

originally from Mediterranean Fresh by Joyce Goldstein

Serves 4

Duck Breast with Pears, Walnuts and Belgian Endive


More cooks should try duck instead of the usual chicken. Goldstein scores the breasts so that the fat runs off and the skin becomes crisp, completely transforming all the other ingredients in this salad.

Editor's Note

Store nut oils like hazelnut oil in the refrigerator and use them within a few months. Try drizzling them over steamed vegetables or fish, or mix the oil with an equal amount of canola or olive oil to add a delicate nuttiness to vinaigrettes.


Whenever I'm in Italy, instead of dining in restaurants all the time, I love to have a meal in a regional wine bar. It's a great way to sample local food products: specialty breads, salumi, cheeses, and oils, and of course the local wines from small producers. One of my favorite wine shops in Rome is the Enoteca Costantini, just off the Piazza Cavour. It has a small signature restaurant called Il Simposio, where I first tasted this dish. Sliced duck breast was dressed with orange balsamic vinaigrette and surrounded by slivers of pear and tiny leaves of wild arugula, a well-balanced contrast of bitter greens, rich duck, and sweet fruit. The duck was served warm. As wild arugula is not always easy to come by, I decided to make this at home with Belgian endive and chicory, but you can also use a mixture of bitter greens, even baby spinach.

At first the only duck breasts I could find at my market (without having to buy the whole duck) were giant Muscovy duck breasts, each big enough to feed two people. But the butcher at the meat counter directed me to the freezer case, where I found boneless Pekin duck breasts, each an ideal serving for one person. Both kinds of duck breast will work here. This dish requires last-minute attention, as it is best when the duck is served warm.



Make the Vinaigrette

Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

Make the Duck

Using a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern, but do not cut into the meat. Rub the breasts with salt and pepper and a pinch of cinnamon, if you like. Let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat. When it is hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook until the breasts render their fat, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain off the fat and slip the pan into the oven. Roast the duck for about 8 minutes for medium-rare. (If you like, you can finish the breasts on the stovetop, reducing the heat to low and sautéing, turning once, for 8 to 10 minutes.) Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. When the duck is cool enough to handle, cut it on the diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

In a small bowl. macerate the nuts in 1 tablespoon dressing.

In a bowl, combine the Belgian endive and chicory. Sprinkle with salt to taste and toss with 1/4 cup dressing. Arrange on 4 salad plates. Top with slices of duck and pear and drizzle with another 1/4 cup of the the dressing (reserve the remaining dressing for another use). Sprinkle the nuts on top and serve.


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This page created December 2009