Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi and Brussels Sprouts

I have been DYING to make this recipe for a very very long time.  I absolutely LOVE so many of the components - duck is one of my very favorite meats, and brussels sprouts are amazing.  As far as I am concerned, radishes and kohlrabi are okay, but I figured if you butter-braised them they would be amazing too.  And my God were they.    But more on that in a bit.  We took a few shortcuts while cooking the veggies because I was way too lazy to use (and then clean) all of those pans.  I think the recipe as written called for two separate pots of boiling salted water and two saute pans.  And that was just for the veggies.  The duck recipe called for a pan, a bowl, a baking sheet and a cooking rack to go on top of the baking sheet.  If we had used all of the pans Thomas Keller wanted, they would have taken over our entire kitchen.  Actually, I'm not even sure we have that many pans and pots.  And we certainly don't have space on our stove top for that many.  Thomas Keller's recipes are flawless, but they are far from simple.  Believe it or not, this was one of the less labor-intensive recipes.

I am obsessed with this dish.  It never ever would have occurred to me to butter braise radishes and serve it with kohlrabi and brussels sprouts.  I was worried that the kohlrabi and the brussels sprouts would be soggy and flavorless since they were blanched without any seasoning, but they were totally delicious.  And the duck was so good.  The skin was perfectly rendered and the meat was tender and juicy.  We have never rendered the fat out this low and slow before throwing the duck in the oven, but the cooking method worked really well.  The meat was perfectly cooked.  The recipe called for orange zest to be grated over the duck while it marinated, but we didn't have any oranges in the apartment so we just skipped that step.  The next time we make the duck (and there will be a next time), I'll make sure to pic up some oranges so I can see how that affects the flavor.  This was a great hearty and rich winter meal with enough butter to make it feel decadent, but enough veggies to make the dish feel balanced.  I loved it.  Sure it had a ton of steps (and necessitated a lot of clean up), but I thought the end result was well worth it.  Once again, Thomas Keller has proved that he is an absolute genius and I am just a baby in comparison.  And once again I am reminded that we really need to make more recipes from this cookbook ASAP.

Recipes after the jump!

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts
Adapted from Ad Hoc At Home
By Thomas Keller

2 Pekin (Long Island) duck breasts, preferably with tenderloins still attached
kosher salt
black pepper
grated nutmeg
balsamic vinegar
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves (we used dried, but if you have fresh you should use that)
canola oil
gray salt or other coarse sea salt

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.  (Do this while the duck is cold, since it’s difficult to make such precise cuts at room temperature.)  Turn the duck breasts skin-side down on the baking sheet.  If the tenderloins, the smaller piece of meat that runs along the bottom of the breast, are still attached, leave them on the breasts.  Use a paring knife to remove the small white tendon that runs through each tenderloin.  You will see a vein that runs the length of each breast.  Run your finger down the length of each vein, and if any blood comes out, wipe it away with a paper towel.

Season the flesh side of each breast with salt and pepper and a grating of nutmeg.  Using a Microplane or other grater, grate a little orange zest over each breast.  Sprinkle a few drops of vinegar over the meat.  Lay a sprig of thyme running lengthwise down the center if each breast and cover with a bay leaf.  Turn over and season each breast with a generous pinch of salt and a grating of nutmeg.  Refrigerate, uncovered, for a least 1 hour, or up to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet.  Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove.  With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts.  Season both sides of each breast with a pinch of salt.

Pour some canola oil into each of the two large ovenproof frying pans over medium-low heat.  (If you have only one large pan, cook the duck in 2 batches.)  Add the duck skin-side-down.  Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly.  As the fat is rendered, carefully remove the excess (leaving about 1/8 inch) from each frying pan; move the pan away from the heat when you remove the fat, since if any fat hits the flame, it will cause a flare-up: tilt the pan, remove the fat with a large kitchen spoon, and transfer it to the metal bowl.  Cook the duck for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, until the skin is an even rich brown and very crisp.  The internal temperature of the breasts should be about 115 F.  Flip each breast and just “kiss” the meat side for about 30 seconds.

Put the duck skin-side-down in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes.  The internal temperature should be 125 F for a rosy medium-rare. 

Put the duck breast skin-side-down on the cooling rack and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.  Cut each piece of duck on the bias into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick slices.  Sprinkle the meat with gray salt and pepper.

Serve duck on top of a bed of Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi and Brussels Sprouts.

Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi and Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Ad Hoc at Home
By Thomas Keller

6 oz Brussels sprouts
1 bunch red radishes, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp shallot, minced
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp champagne vinegar, plus more to taste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more if needed
3 kohlrabi, about 2-1/2 inches in diameter
1 tbsp chives or mint, finely chopped (we used chives)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Meanwhile, trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any tough or bruised outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half through the root end.

Blanch the sprouts until tender, about 4 minutes. Chill in the ice bath and drain.  

Trim the greens from the radishes and wash the radishes under cold water. Cut larger radishes into 6 wedges each, smaller radishes into quarters.

Melt 2 tbsp of the butter over medium heat in a sauté pan big enough to hold the radishes in a single layer. Add the shallot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the radishes. sugar, and vinegar, season generously with salt and pepper, and add 2 tbsp of the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, until the radishes are crisp-tender. Cook uncovered, swirling the pan, to glaze the radishes, about 2 minutes (the recipe said to cook for 4 minutes to glaze, but I was impatient). Pour radishes into a small bowl and set aside. 

Return the large pot of salted water to a boil and add more water if necessary.
While the radishes are braising, cut the stems and roots from the kohlrabi. Stand each kohlrabi on a cut end and peel it with a sharp knife, cutting deep enough to reach the tender flesh. Cut lengthwise into slices about 1/2 inch thick. Trim the rounded sides of the slices and cut the kohlrabi into 1/2-inch-wide batons. You need 2 cups of batons (reserve any remaining kohlrabi for another use). 

Add the kohlrabi to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain and transfer to paper towels to drain thoroughly.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp stock to the large sauté pan. Bring to a simmer. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until emulsified and smooth. Add the Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi and cook over high heat for 45 seconds. Add the radishes and any liquid remaining in the bowl and heat through. If the butter begins to break, you can swirl in another couple of tablespoons of stock or water. Toss in the chives and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of vinegar, or to taste. Transfer the vegetables to a platter. 

Serve vegetables topped with sliced duck breast.

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