Duck with blueberry and cherry pepper gastrique, leeks, and blueberry arugula salad

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Continuing my series on proteins that sound difficult but are in fact easy peasy, we have duck breast! This meal, all told, is easy to execute, difficult to screw up, and absolutely delicious and fairly healthy. Read all about my making of this feast on the blog!

Here are the details!

  • Serves how ever many people you want; the shopping list below is for one person. You'll need more leeks and duck breasts, obviously, if you're serving more.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes; cook time: 45 minutes

  • Shopping list:

    • 6 to 8 oz. duck breasts, skin attached

    • Leeks (about 2–3 per serving)

    • Arugula

    • Goat cheese

    • Blueberries

    • Hot pepper of some kind (jalapeño, cherry, Serrano, etc.)

    • White wine vinegar

    • Sugar

    • Bourbon (optional)

    • Sprig of fresh oregano

    • Excellent extra virgin olive oil

    • Vegetable oil

    • Sea salt and pepper

  • Tools for cooking:​

    • Cast iron skillet or sauté pan, a second sauté pan with lid, small saucepan

    • Sharp knife

    • Wire mesh strainer

    • Meat thermometer

THE GASTRIQUE

  1. People will argue with me on this, since gastrique should technically be done with the sugar caramelized on its own first, but I like to melt in a small saucepan a half cup of sugar in about 2 tablespoons of water and reduce over medium-minus heat until slightly syrupy.

  2. Add about a half cup of fresh blueberries and one diced hot pepper (stems and seeds removed) to the syrup and allow to cook and reduce until the blueberries are decomposing and bursting.

  3. Pour a third to a half of a cup of white wine vinegar in the pan and stir. At this point, if you want to add some bourbon for extra flavor, you can add about a quarter to a third of a cup. If you do this, you'll need more time to reduce.

  4. Reduce liquid until slightly syrupy and the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

  5. Pour sauce into a holding container through a wire mesh strainer and discard the blueberries and peppers. These proportions will make plenty of sauce. Set sauce aside in a warm location.

 

THE LEEKS

  1. Slice off and remove roots. Slice white and white-green parts of the leeks width-wise and soak in water, agitating every couple of minutes to clean out any excess dirt.

  2. Meanwhile, julienne one (cleaned) leek stem (white and white-green) length-wise to create very thin slices about three inches in length. 

  3. Melt 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted and starts to foam, add some good sea salt and stir.

  4. Add diced leeks to pan and stir to coat in butter. Create an even layer at the bottom of the pan and cover. Set heat to medium low.

  5. Cook leeks for about 30 minutes, stirring from time to time, until a taste of the leeks reveals melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

  6. Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil (enough so the oil is about 1/3 of an inch deep) in a small saucepan over medium high heat.

  7. When the oil is hot and glistening, carefully add the julienned leek and fry until golden brown.

  8. Remove leeks and place on a paper towel, and season with whatever you like.

THE SALAD

  1. Create a dressing consisting of 1/3 cup olive oil, 2 tbsp of the blueberry gastrique, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, 1 tbsp of minced shallot, 1 tbsp of lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir vigorously, or use a shaker to combine.

  2. Dress arugula in an appropriate amount of the created dressing. Top with crumbled goat cheese and fresh blueberries.

THE DUCK

  1. Score the duck skin at an angle with a sharp knife every so centimeter or so, being careful to not cut through too much of the skin and also not removing the skin from the duck. If you'd like, score in a diagonal the other direction as well (criss-cross) for more fat release.

  2. Season the duck with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, with less seasoning on the meat side and a bit more on the skin side.

  3. Place a cast iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-plus heat and place the duck, skin-side down, in the cold pan. This allows the fat to render as the pan heats up without scorching the skin.

  4. Allow the fat to render and the skin to cook until golden brown, and flip the duck. Baste with the duck fat and cook for about 90 seconds before flipping back to skin side. Repeat this process until an instant-read thermometer in the center of the duck breast (NOT the skin) reads 130 to 135 Fahrenheit.

  5. Remove duck from pan and allow to rest under foil for about ten minutes.

  6. Meanwhile, add fresh blueberries and a sprig of oregano to the hot pan (preferably where the duck fat has pooled) and cook briefly over medium-low heat until blueberries are just starting to disintegrate.

ASSEMBLING

  1. Spoon melted leeks onto plate and top with the fried leeks.

  2. Salad can be served alongside the duck or on a separate plate.

  3. Slice the duck width-wise; one 6 oz. breast should be perfect for one person. Place slices on plate, skin-side up, and spoon a healthy amount of warm gastrique over the duck. Garnish with the oregano sprig and blueberries cooked in the duck fat.

Et voila! Easy duck! Enjoy!