By Kristy Del Coro
Duck is one of my favorite alternatives to red meat. The meat itself is surprisingly lean (not marbled with fat like beef is) yet packed with flavor. Rendering the exterior fat properly in the pan results in ultra crispy skin and any fat that is left on the duck breast is mostly the heart-healthy unsaturated kind. Plus, that rendered duck fat makes for a delicious cooking fat in place of butter - I like to keep mine in the freezer as one of my staples and use it to cook potatoes or even to sauté mirepoix before starting a soup or stew, adding a rich unctuous flavor.
This recipe features a classic pairing, duck + cherries, alongside smoky freekeh that's tossed with earthy kale and bright pops of fennel and fresh cherries. It's plated over a turnip fennel puree and finished with a super easy pomegranate cherry sauce that can also be repurposed for another sweet or savory meal. Enjoy!
Pan-Roasted Duck Breast
Makes 2 servings
Ingredients: 1 large duck breast Kosher salt
Rinse duck breast and pat dry.
Score diagonally in a shallow cross-hatch pattern but be careful to only score through the fat and not deep to the meat itself. This will allow for better rendering of the fat. (Tip: If time allows, after scoring, let duck sit for 20 min to come up to room temp to help dry the skin even further for crispier skin).
Season liberally with salt on skin-side and place in cold skillet.
Turn heat to medium; when pan starts to warm and fat starts to sizzle, turn heat down to medium low. Gentle heat is key here, go low and slow to render out the most fat without over browning. (Tip: If you see ends of the duck breast start to curl, press down with tongs to get more even browning)
Allow fat to render out and cook duck breast until at least ¾ of the way done (about 8-10 minutes but depends on the size of the breast and how much fat you want to render out). Pour off fat as necessary to prevent duck breast from frying in its own fat. *Strain and reserve fat in refrigerator for later use in another recipe.
When duck breast is about 90% cooked (or internal temp is 125F), lightly season flesh side with Kosher salt and flip over to “kiss” the other side and lightly brown.
Cook another 1-3 minutes until medium or medium rare. Thermometer should read an internal temperature of 130F for medium rare and closer to 140F for medium. If duck breast is especially thick or you want it more well done, transfer skillet to a pre-heated oven to finish cooking.
When duck breast is cooked, transfer to cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes prior to slicing.
Freekeh Cherry Kale Salad Yields 1 ½ cups, 2 servings, ¾ cup each
Ingredients: 3/4 cup raw Tuscan kale, ribs removed, cut lengthwise into 1 inch strips and then sliced across into thin chiffonade 1 cup cooked freekeh (yield from ½ cup raw freekeh, cooked per package directions) ¼ cup small diced fennel ½ cup chopped fresh dark sweet cherries (cut into eighths) 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil + a little extra for massaging the kale 2 tsp white balsamic or champagne vinegar ¼ tsp of fine sea salt + extra pinch for massaging the kale Black pepper to taste 2 tsp chopped mint 2 tsp chopped chives 1 tsp chopped tarragon
In a medium bowl, season the sliced kale with pinch of salt and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and “massage” by hand to help tenderize the kale.
Add the freekeh, diced fennel and chopped cherries.
Drizzle with the 2 tsp olive oil and the vinegar, season with ¼ tsp salt and pepper to taste and mix to evenly coat the grain mix.
Add fresh herbs (mint, chives, and tarragon) and gently toss to combine.
Serve at room temperature with the sliced duck breast.
Turnip Fennel Puree
3 or 4 large turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bulb fennel, quartered
Vegetable or chicken stock
Salt to taste
Olive oil or duck fat to taste
Add turnips and fennel to a medium pot and add enough stock to cover the vegetables.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, covered for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Uncover and continue to cook until vegetables are completely cooked through.
Drain the vegetables, reserving the cooking liquid. Transfer to a blender and add cooking liquid as needed to blend into a smooth puree.
Season with salt to taste and drizzle of olive oil or tablespoon of duck fat.
Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce Yields 1/3 cup sauce Ingredients: 1 cup 100% pomegranate juice 1 cup halved, pitted dark sweet cherries (about 24 fresh cherries) Directions:
Combine juice and cherries in small saucepan.
Simmer on medium low for 15-20 min until juice reduces by about 75% (look for small bubbles all over the surface) and cherries are softened.
When cherries are completely soft, and juice starts to thicken (should coat the back of spoon), remove from heat and strain through fine mesh strainer.
To Plate (for 1 Serving): 3/4 cup Freekeh Cherry Kale Salad 1/2 Pan-Roasted Duck breast, sliced on a bias Flaky sea salt (optional)
Heaping spoonful of Turnip-Fennel Puree Drizzle of Pomegranate-Cherry Sauce (1-2 Tbsp)