The only problem? It's not duck season (for that matter, it may not be rabbit season, either).
Oh, palate worm, you are a sneaky one...making me believe that you can be easily satisfied
I called my favourite butcher and there was no joy--his supplier wasn't able to get any in yet. Several rounds of telephone tag later and more than 30 minutes on the road and one lovely, plumptious duck breast was in my hot little hands.
So now what?
Part of me wanted to rub it in juniper, part of me wanted to create a spicy masala for it. Then my mind hovered over orange and cherry. What to do, what to do...
I thought of the lovely crisp skin...then it hit me. Even though a lot of duck fat is rendered, there's always a thin layer left (at least when I do it). That wee bit of richness would do well with a bit of tanginess, tinged with a bit of sweet and punctuated with a bit of a bite. After some reading and recipe perusing, it was clear this breast should be bushed with a balsamic glaze.
Cooking duck breast is relatively easy, so I didn't really want to make a complicated dish to accompany it. Lentils mixed with bacon, sautéed mushrooms and vegetables seemed to be the obvious pairing.
The full meal is really quite simple to prepare (really, if I can do it, anyone can), and once the veggies have been chopped can be pulled together in less than an hour...which, I think, places it within Wednesday night supper party territory (or, in my case, Wednesday night supper territory...with enough leftovers for Thursday lunch).
Balsamic-glazed duck with lentils with mushrooms and bacon
For the lentils:
100g (3.5oz/3-4 rashers) rashers of smoked bacon, chopped roughly
Olive oil or butter, for frying
1 shallot, minced
100g (3.5oz/approx 1.33c) sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, diced finely
110g (9Tbsp/0.5c +1Tbsp) dried puy lentils (green lentils)
1 bay leaf
1 bay leaf
500ml (2c) vegetable broth
For the duck:
1 duck breast
75ml (0.33c) balsamic vinegar
1Tbsp (15ml) runny honey
In a pot, sauté the bacon until crispy. Remove to a bowl. Sauté the shallots in the bacon fat until wilted. Add the mushrooms (and a bit of oil or butter if you need it), with a good sprinkling of pepper. Add the garlic with the mushrooms are soft. Stir for about 30 seconds or until the garlic's scent is released. Tip the mixture into the bowl with the bacon.
Add about a spoonful of oil or butter (or duck fat!) to the pan. Soften the carrots and celery in the fat. Add the lentils and the bay leaf and give it a good stir. Pour in the stock, bacon and mushrooms and stir well. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil and let bubble for about five minutes. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir and balance flavours to taste.
While the lentils are cooking, score the skin in a harlequin (or a diamond) pattern, with the tip of a sharp knife--cut deeply enough to cut the fat, not the meat. Rub a pinch or two of salt and pepper into both sides of the breast.
Place the breast skin-side down on a cold, heavy pan. Turn the hob to low to medium-low heat and let the fat slowly render, while crisping the skin to a golden colour. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
Remove the breast to a plate, pour off (but save!) the duck fat. Brush a tablespoon or so of the fat onto the meat side and return the breast, meat side down to the pan. Sear over medium-low to medium heat for about two to five minutes. Remove the breast to a plate and cover tightly with foil (let rest at least five minutes).
While the duck is resting, make the balsamic glaze. Remove excess fat from the pan and pour in the balsamic vinegar and honey, add a couple of pinches of salt and a good amount of pepper (enough to satisfy your palate). Give it a stir. Over medium heat reduce the mixture by half, until it's thick and syrupy.
Brush the skin side of the duck with the balsamic reduction (and the meat side, if you wish), and thinly slice the breast.
Serve immediately, laying duck slices over the lentils.
- Be sparing when adding salt as commercial broths and bacon can be quite salty
- Don't throw away that lovely duck fat! Decant to a baggie and freeze it for the next time you roast or fry potatoes.
- The older your lentils, the longer they will take to soften, so check the lentils after 30 minutes to see how they're doing, and go on from there.
I'm a quill for hire!