There are certain dishes we consider our go-to comfort foods -- and way up there on my list is Magret de Canard, or Duck Breast. I conjure all sorts of happy memories of French trips with a perfect Paris dinner of tender Magret de Canard, accompanied by good friends and lively conversation. Come to think of it, it's a perfect Provençal meal, too! This recipe is a lovely way to import a wonderful taste of France using the wonderful bounty of sunny Los Angeles ...and like many good creations, was a happy accident!
I was inspired
to make this when I uncovered a forgotten clam shell of blackberries in the back
of my fridge. They were sweet and plump, intended for several healthy yogurt
breakfasts but had only made it to one morning meal. Now a week later, they were way past their
prime and only good if they were going to be cooked somehow. There wasn’t enough for a cobbler or berry
compote…and I couldn't throw them out even though they were a little forlorn.
then I remembered the duck breasts I had in my freezer and knew
exactly what to do!
2 Boneless Duck Breasts, skin on (fresh or defrosted frozen)
Sea salt and Malabar pepper to taste
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp cumin
2-3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
½ red onion (or 2 shallots) diced
½ cup chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
½ Pint Blackberries
Optional: Splash of Pomegranate juice
Fresh sage leaves
duck breasts from the fridge, rinse and blot dry with paper towels. With a
sharp knife, carefully score the thick fat on each breast with diagonal criss-cross
markings. Be sure to cut the fat only and
not the meat. Salt and pepper the
breasts on both sides, and dust with cumin and Herbs de Provence.
Let the breast rest for about a half hour to reach room temperature
and absorb the salt.
Place the duck, scored skin side down, in a heavy skillet at
Let them sit in the pan for 2-3 minutes as it heats up, and the
fat starts to render. Reduce flame to
medium-low and continue to cook the breasts, without moving them, for 5-6 more
minutes. There will be a nice pool of duck fat surrounding them. If the skin is not
crisp and golden by this time, turn up the flame to medium for another minute
or two to crispen the skin.
When they look like this, flip them over:
to cook for another 2-3 minutes turning heat to medium.
They are best
when served medium rare, which is still very pink in the middle, or about 140
degres on your meat thermometer. Remove
breasts from the pan and set aside on a plate to rest.
time to make your reduction sauce.
pan of the precious duck fat, pouring it into a glass jar to save for another
use. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks and also can be frozen.
There will be enough fat left in the pan for you to now to sauté
the onions at medium flame for about 3 minutes until they are softened.
Add the butter and let it melt and swirl it into the onion mixture.
Add the Balsamic, the broth and if you like, the pomegranate juice, and
continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes to let the glaze reduce.
By now, you will probably see some meat juices collected on the
plate where you’ve set your cooked duck breast. Carefully drain the plate and pour that
flavorful liquid into your reduction sauce stirring to integrate it. Toss in
the fresh blackberries and cook another 2-3 minutes. The reduction should be
thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but don’t worry if it isn’t too thick – it’s the
flavor you really want to enhance your duck and its crispy, seasoned skin. Turn off the flame.
Slice the duck breasts crosswise and on a slight angle, for a “fallen
duck with the overlapping slices. You could serve two people with one duck breast
– although it won't be a lot of meat. I'd be generous and give a whole breast as one serving. The sauce, drizzled over the sliced duck on
the plate can be served one of 2 ways:
Strain it through a sieve pushing it through with a wooden spoon
for a “thin” glaze, or, as is, as a more rustic, chunky sauce. Either way it will be delicious! Make sure
your blackberries tumble nicely on and around the meat. Sprinkle with chopped fresh sage adding a few
whole leaves to decorate your plate.
I served this with a mixed grains side dish (rice, flax seed and
barley) tossed with lots of chopped parsley and seasoned not with butter but a
little lemon vinaigrette.
A nice Petite Syrah or Pinot Noir would be a perfect wine here.
From sweet stocking stuffers to holiday hostess gifts, these delightful choices will generate lots of smiles!
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Yes, I'm obsessed with fine food and when I find exceptional edibles, I have to share them. When I came across this amazing, organic Balsamic vinegar from one of the best producers in Modena, I knew I had to stock it in the store. Presented in a beautiful, substantial bottle, it makes a terrific holiday hostess gift -- or a great treat for yourself!
Because this is so special, it is best enjoyed simply, drizzled as a flavor garnish over meats fish and poultry before and after cooking, as well as a delicious flourish over all sorts of milder or creamy cheeses and bread, as well as fruit (Pears are great). If you decide to use it for a salad dressing, use another vinegar in quantity and add just a tablespoon or so of Saporoso for the flavor punch.
By the way, if octopus isn't your thing, you can substitute grilled boneless chicken pieces -- but the arugula, peach and balsamic are a magic flavor combination.
Charred Octopus with Peach, Arugula and Aged Balsamic
This recipe is from Epicurious | October 2010
by Eric Ripert
Learning to cook octopus properly is important because it can become a bit rubbery if not prepared correctly. This recipe teaches a great technique. The richness of the aged balsamic vinegar, the brightness of the peach, and the peppery bite of arugula come together in a harmonious way that celebrates all of the flavors, especially the octopus
1/2 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 small celery stalk, sliced on the bias
1/2 small carrot, peeled and sliced on the bias
1 3–ounce piece prosciutto
2 fresh Italian parsley sprigs
3 garlic cloves, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 cups water, approx.
2 pounds octopus, head removed and tentacles separated
2 tablespoons olive oil
-fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup baby arugula
1 peach, halved, pitted, and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons aged (at least 8 years) balsamic vinegar
1 lemon, cut in half
Combine the onion, celery, carrot, prosciutto, parsley, garlic and cayenne pepper in a pot with about 8 cups of water. Season the water with salt and boil for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse. Add the octopus and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for about 1 hour or until the octopus is tender when gently pierced with a knife. Cool the octopus in the braising liquid at room temperature until cool enough to handle.
Remove the octopus from the braising liquid and drain well. Heat a cast-iron skillet or a flat griddle over high heat until it is very hot. Season the octopus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill the octopus until it is caramelized and crusted on all sides, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the charred octopus to a cutting board and cut each tentacle on the bias into 4 slices.
Place the octopus slices in the center of 4 plates and garnish with arugula and 3 to 4 slices of the peach. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of aged balsamic vinegar over and around the octopus, and finish each dish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve immediately.
Balsamic Roasted Carrots
From Gourmet Magazine, November 2002.
2 pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and cut into sticks 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive oil 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the carrots in the oil and the salt and place them in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in the middle of the oven, stirring from time to time, until they turn a beautiful golden color and become tender. This should take about a half hour. Drizzle the vinegar over the carrots and shake the pan a few times. Roast the carrots until most of the vinegar is evaporated, which should take approximately five minutes more.
Sautéed Scallops with Crimini Mushrooms, Pink Grapefruit, Frisee and Hazelnuts
12 large sea scallops 4 tablespoons Olive oil 4 shallots, thinly sliced/or 1 small red onion chopped fine 1/2 pound crimini muschrooms, sliced 4 tablespoons age balsmaic vinegar 3 heads frisee, washed and spun dry
Toasted Hazelnuts for garnish
Season the scallops with pepper and salt and set aside
Prepare the grapefruit by cutting it in half and removing the indidual bite size sections and set them on a plate. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan until very hot. Reduce to medium heat and place the scallops in the pan. Let them cook until golden on one side for three or four minutes and then turn them, to cook for about a minute or two more. Remove from pan. Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the shallots or red onion and sauté until soft. This should take three to four minutes. Add the mushrooms and toss for three to four minutes until nicely wilted and browned. Turn oiff the heat. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over the mushroom mixture and add the frisee. Toss quickly, season with salt and pepper, then divide among four plates.
Arrange three scallops on each salad. Drizzle the baslamic over the scallops.
Place grapefruit sections in between the scallops and sprinke toasted hazelnuts for garnish and serve.
Perfectly Parisian and one of my best selling designs -- an easy, flattering knee length jumper that travels well, is polished enough for work and stays elegant for a dinner out. I used a nice pinstripe for this one and of course, it has pockets!
Such a French style needs a French name, so I call it the Beaubourg Jumper and it's available here: