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Author Notes: There are few things I love better than a perfectly seared duck breast. Moist and pink on the inside with a crispy, crackling skin. Thomas Keller has the best technique for ensuring a perfect pan-roasted duck breast in Ad Hoc at Home. In the recipe, the duck is served with butter-braised radishes, brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi. I happened to have brussels sprouts and kohlrabi on hand, so I decided to do my own interpretation of his dish.
I eliminated the radishes since I didn't have any and decided to make a kohlrabi mash instead of cutting them into match sticks and braising with the brussels sprouts. I didn't have all the ingredients necessary for the duck breast marinade, so I left out the bay leaves and orange zest. The recipe also specifies using Pekin ducks, but I'm in Germany and wasn't quite sure what kind of ducks I got except that they were male, which are apparently just larger than females. Finally, I hate to leave a searing pan full of delicious fond, so I made a red wine pan sauce (the vino drizzle) to top off the dish. I've never had the dish as it was designed, but without patting myself on the back too much, I will say that my version was damn good.
Regardless of what you serve the duck breasts with, this particular preparation and method for pan-roasting the duck is perfection. I will use this method from here on out without question. —pigisyummy
Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts
- 2 10-12 oz. duck breasts, preferably with tenderloins still attached
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- balsamic vinegar
- olive oil
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut a ¼-inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of each breast, being careful not to pierce the meat. Easiest to do this while the duck is cold.
- Turn the duck breasts skin-side down on the baking sheet. Use a paring knife to remove the small white tendon that runs through each tenderloin if they are still attached to the breast. Find the vein that runs down the length of each breast and run your finger down the length of each vein. If any blood comes out, wipe it away with a paper towel.
- Season the flesh side of each breast with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg (fresh grated is preferred).
- Sprinkle meat with few drops of the vinegar and lay a sprig of thyme down the length of each breast. Then flip the breast back over so skin side is facing up.
- Season skin side with generous pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Refrigerate uncovered, at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
- Season both sides of the duck breast with a pinch of salt and place skin side down into frying pan. Place the thyme sprigs into the pan while breasts are searing, infusing the fat with the thyme.
- Here is where patience comes in. You want to slowly sear the duck breasts on medium-low for 20-25 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy. Every few minutes move the breasts around to ensure even browning. You also want to use a spoon to remove the majority of the fat in the pan as it renders out of the skin. This is what the bowl you placed next to the stove is for.
- Once the skin is very crispy and the internal temperature of the breasts is about 115 degrees, flip the breasts over and just "kiss" the flesh side to the pan for about 30 seconds.
- Put the duck skin side down on a baking sheet and put into oven for about 5 minutes or until internal temperature is about 125 degrees.
- Remove duck breasts from the oven and place the breasts skin side down on the cooling rack over the baking sheet and let rest 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, remove remaining fat from pan, leaving thyme sprigs, and place over medium heat. Pour in one cup of dry red wine and scrape up all the delicious browned bits with a wooden spoon, stirring into the wine. Let wine come to a simmer and let reduce to about 1/3 of cup. Whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
- After resting, slice duck breasts on a bias into 8 slices. Place 4 slices onto each plate on top of kohlrabi mash and brussels sprouts. Spoon the red wine sauce over the duck and serve.
Butter-Braised Brussels Sprouts and Kohlrabi Mash
- 3 medium kohlrabi bulbs
- 1 pound brussels sprouts
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons reserved duck fat
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- Remove leaves and stalks from kohlrabi bulbs. Peel and cut into rough cubes.
- Wash brussels sprouts, slice off stem end and remove any tough outer leaves. Slice in half lengthwise.
- Set pot of water to boil on stove and prepare an ice bath.
- Place kohlrabi cubes into another pot with 1/2 cup milk and cover with water. Season with a couple of pinches of salt.
- Bring kohlrabi pot to boil, covered, and reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until kohlrabi yields easily to a fork. Strain into a colander and return kohlrabi to pot.
- Using a handblender or potato masher, mash or puree kohlrabi. Turn heat to low and let cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until ready to serve. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.
- When the pot of water starts to boil, season generously with salt and add brussels sprouts. Blanch them for about 5 minutes or until tender. Strain and place into ice bath.
- In a large saute pan, melt the butter and the duck fat over medium heat.
- Strain brussels sprouts from ice bath and add to butter/fat in pan, stirring to coat with the fat. Cover and let cook for up to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Put a large spoonful of the kohlrabi mash into center of plate. Spoon brussels sprouts over kohlrabi.