Monday, 22 July 2013

Pan-fried duck breast with Pommes Anna, broccoli, braised radicchio and a pink peppercorn sauce

It feels so good to be blogging again after a couple of weeks! Sorry about the lack of recent posts, it’s been one of those months when I’ve been rushing around and just haven’t managed to make time for writing anything. Luckily I’ve still cooked a few things, and have also been to the excellent Patty and Bun for dinner, so I have a backlog of things to post about that will hopefully be completed over the next week or so. If I don’t get distracted by yet another bbq in the park again...

I’ve also been a bit undecided in my cooking, and a bit uninspired with what to cook. The worst thing about blogging is trying to think of new recipes to cook, getting enthusiastic about an idea, going out and spending lots of money on good ingredients and then when you cook it things just don’t click, or you find out the hard way that your idea wasn’t quite good enough. Luckily this doesn’t happen too often, and I’m generally happyish with the finished result. But a couple of weeks ago I had a disaster with a langoustine and john dory recipe. Everything seemed like it would be amazing in my head, but although the finished dish was tasty it just wasn’t a complete dish, and still needed a lot of work before it   could grace these pages. To make things worse, the photos of the finished ‘dish’ were pretty awful too, so a failure all round. Still, I will learn from it, but hopefully next time my mistakes won’t be so damn expensive! 

Thankfully everything came together fine on this occasion, and I actually have a finished recipe to share. This one is very safe, using tried and tested combinations that just taste good together. Duck with something sweet tasting, an irony vegetable and some garlicky potatoes is always a winner. The only things to be concerned about when cooking this are the timings. You want the duck to be a little bit pink (which in this instance mine was, just), the potatoes to the soft in the middle and the radicchio and broccoli to just have some bite. Most things can be prepared hours in advance too, so this is ideal if hosting for a number of people. 

A quick word on the Pommes Anna. To be honest I didn’t really know what these were up until a couple of months ago when I saw them on a Michel Roux Jr programme. They’re a bit like a gratin or other vegetable stack, but pretty and individual. The layers of duck fat, leek, garlic and thyme give the cooked potatoes a beautiful richness that goes perfectly with the rest of the dish. 

Serves 2


1 free range duck crown, trimmings reserved for the sauce
Salt and pepper
20g butter

For the Pommes Anna:

2 large floury potatoes such as maris piper
1 leek, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
10 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
30g butter
6 tbsp duck fat
Salt and pepper

For the braised radicchio:

1 medium radicchio, heart removed and leaves sliced finely
5 slices smoked pancetta, finely chopped
8 dates, stones removed and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
5 sprigs thyme, leaves picked
1 tbsp caster sugar
50g butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

Trimmings and bones from the duck, as many as you can get. Excess fat removed.
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large glass white wine
500ml chicken stock
20g butter
1 tsp pink peppercorns
Salt and pepper

For the broccoli:

4 pieces of tender-stem broccoli, trimmed
20g butter
Salt and pepper

To finish:

Baby red sorrel leaves

Turn the oven to 190ºC Fan.

First make the Pommes Anna. Heat up a medium frying pan to a moderate temperature. Melt the butter, then add the chopped leeks, garlic and thyme. Season and cook gently for about 10 minutes, or until very tender. Take off the heat. Wash and peel the potatoes, then slice them vertically very thinly, so that they are almost translucent. Using a small round cutter, cut identical circles in these slices, discarding the edges or saving for bubble and squeak. Put a sheet of greaseproof paper onto a baking tray. Put one cylinder of potato on first, then spread a little duck fat on top. Spoon a little of the leek mixture on top of this and season well. Repeat this process until the stack is about 10 potato pieces high, then top with more duck fat, seasoning and a sprinkle of thyme. Repeat so that you have two stacks of potato. Spoon the rest of the duck fat around the potatoes on the baking sheet. Put in the oven for about 40 minutes, turning to temperature down to 160ºC half way through the cooking.

While the potatoes are in the oven make the sauce. Heat a large skillet to a high heat and add the olive oil. When hot, season the duck trimmings and bones and sear on all sides until very well browned. Add the leek, shallot, garlic and thyme and caramelise well. Pour in the white wine and allow to reduce by half, then add the bay leaf, stock and a little more seasoning and mix well. Reduce the liquid again until only about 175ml remains, about 25 minutes, then strain into a small saucepan. Set aside for finishing later. 

As the sauce is reducing, make the braised radicchio. Heat a large frying pan to a medium heat and add half of the butter and a splash of oil. When hot add the chopped pancetta and cook for 7-8 minutes until starting to crisp. Add the shallot, garlic, thyme and seasoning and cook for another 3-4 minutes until tender. Now add the dates and sugar and stir the mixture well. Cook for another couple of minutes then remove from the heat for finishing later. 

Cook the duck when the potatoes have about ten minutes left to cook (although the Pommes Anna can be left in a warm oven for a few minutes until ready). Dry the duck breasts well with kitchen paper then season all over. Place skin side down in a dry, cold, non-stick pan and set the heat to medium-high. Cook for 4-5 minutes on the skin side, until the fat is well rendered and crisp. At this point put the butter in the pan and turn the duck over. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, touching with your finger occasionally to judge the cooking like you would a steak. Baste the top of the duck with the fat as you go. When cooked, remove to a board to rest for 5-6 minutes. 

While the duck is resting finish the other elements off at the same time. 

Drain most of the fat from the duck pan, but don’t clean, then put straight back onto a medium heat with the butter and a splash of water for the broccoli. When melted add the trimmed broccoli and seasoning and cook for 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally. 

To finish off the radicchio, heat up the bacon and date mixture with the other half of the butter. When hot add the sliced radicchio and stir to combine well. Taste and adjust the seasonings so that the right balance of sweet and salty is achieved. 

Reheat the sauce gently and add the pink peppercorns and the butter. Stir well to combine and be careful not to boil, you just want it to come to heat.

Carve your duck into 3 diagonal slices and you are ready to plate up. 

First position the potato stack to the plate, then add three tablespoons of the radicchio mixture. Place one slice of duck on each mound. Top with the broccoli and spoon over the sauce. Finally scatter over some of the baby sorrel leaves. 

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