Cookbook Profile

Crispy Duck Breast
with Cracked Wheat, Caramelized Shallots,
and Blackberry Gastrique

Serves 6

Crispy Duck Breast


Although I frequently make use of skinless chicken and turkey breasts, duck is something else entirely. Rich, crisp skin is one of the best things about duck breast. It is true that there is a lot of fat in the skin, but that's where good technique is necessary. By slow-cooking the duck breast on the skin side, most of the fat is rendered, and what's left behind is mahogany-colored, thin, crisp skin. Cracked wheat is enhanced by a generous measure of caramelized shallots and complements the duck with texture and savory flavor. The tangy blackberry gastrique, a vinegar-and-fruit sauce, brings it all together, cutting through the richness while highlighting the earthiness of both the duck and the wheat.

Serve with roasted cauliflower or simple cooked romanesco or turnips (page 117 of the book), if desired.

For the Duck

For the Cracked Wheat

For The Blackberry Gastrique

Prepare the duck. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck in a crosshatch pattern, cutting just three-fourths of the way through the skin (not quite down to the meat). In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey. Pour the marinade into a shallow dish just large enough to hold the duck breast. Place the duck skin side up in the marinade, being careful not to get the marinade on the skin side, or it will burn during cooking. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 and up to 6 hours.

Prepare the cracked wheat. Bring 1-3/4 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan.

Stir in the cracked wheat and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Spray a small saute pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until the shallots are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook until the vinegar is reduced and coats the shallots, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shallots to the cracked wheat and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the duck from the marinade and pat with a paper towel to remove any marinade or excess moisture. Put the duck skin side down in a medium cast-iron skillet just big enough to hold the breast (it will shrink during cooking) and place the pan over medium-low heat. After about 1 minute, use tongs to move the breasts gently to make sure they are not sticking. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, carefully pouring out the fat from the pan halfway through cooking, until the skin is deep golden brown and crisp. Check the skin side periodically to make sure it is not burning and adjust the heat if necessary. Pour out the remaining fat from the pan and turn the breasts over. Place in the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer reads 135 degrees F for medium-rare, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the duck breasts to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes.

Prepare the blackberry gastrique. Pour off all the fat from the skillet used to cook the duck breast. Add the sugar and 1 tablespoon water to the skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Cook, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet, until the sugar starts to caramelize to a light golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the blackberries, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, and simmer, smashing the berries with the back of a large spoon, until a light, syrupy consistency is reached, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh strainer, using a wooden spoon to force as much sauce through the strainer as possible. You should have about 1/4 cup sauce. The sauce will thicken slightly while standing.

Slice the duck breast crosswise 1/8-inch thick. Divide the cracked wheat among four plates. Arrange the duck breasts slices on top of the cracked wheat, layering them like shingles. Drizzle the gastrique over the duck and around the plate, and place a few blackberries on each plate. Serve.


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This page created May 2009