An ode to duck.
I might write that eventually, but for now, let me just tell you how much I love a good duck breast. The whole thing really, but today the breast will be our main focal point (thanks to these beautiful cuts that I got from the fine folks over at Marx Foods).
I ate more chicken breasts than than I care to reveal back when I still believed fat was something to be feared. I still eat a good amount of chicken today, but I always go for the dark meat. Maybe that’s to make up for lost time? Flavor?
I’ve ventured out of the box a little since my days of skinless chicken breasts, and I’m glad I did, because it’s where I stumbled upon the unbelievably tasty (yet overlooked) protein that is the duck.
Embracing fattier cuts of meat opened up a whole new world for me– one that was juicy and flavorful but undeservedly vilified by mainstream nutrition professionals.
Luckily for ‘top-of-the-food-chain-sitters’ like ourselves, evidence that fat isn’t actually to blame for our endless health problems is slowly grabbing mainstream attention.
Isn’t that fantastic news?
It is, indeed.
But it doesn’t mean we should focus any less of our attention on veggies, which is why I decided to pair my duck with the fall inspired flavors of cauliflower, sage, and pumpkin.
I’m an admitted cauliflower fanatic and I’ve made a similar side that swaps out the pumpkin for roasted carrots. That remains as one of my favorites, but the addition of sage and October’s most beloved orange gourd is really too delicious for words to do justice.
It’s creamy, it involves roasted garlic, and it gets you one step closer to fulfilling your pumpkin-eating quota for October.
Technically, since I used canned pumpkin here, you can totally make this recipe year round- but feel free to roast up your own pumpkin if you caved and bought more than your fall decorating actually required (or if you’re less lazy than myself).
I kept the duck breast simple with just a bit of salt and pepper. The rich flavor really shines through that way.
Add a splash of wine and a bit of mustard at the last moment to finish the sliced duck breast off with a quick pan sauce.
The supple layer of fat that blankets the duck breast gets slowly rendered out, leaving a crispy layer of skin and a prize worthy tub of duck fat for future cooking adventures.
Cooking duck really is the gift that keeps on giving. First you get the duck (yay!) but then you realize you’re left with this incredible cooking medium. SAVE IT for Pete’s sake and use it to make potatoes that will make you want to cry.
Not to get dramatic, but the first time you taste duck-fat-cooked-anything you will get the uncontrollable urge to stop, and express gratitude for whoever made you a human.
You should go ahead and thank the duck, while you’re at it.
And pour a little extra for him.
- one small head cauliflower
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 8-10 sage leaves
- 2-3 cloves garlic
- coconut oil for roasting
- 1/4-1/2 cup light coconut milk or other milk
- salt, pepper
- 1 large duck breast or 2 small (about 1 pound), skin on
- splash red wine
- 1-2 tsp brown mustard
- Remove duck breast from fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut florets from head of cauliflower and spread onto a baking sheet along with 8-10 fresh sage leaves. Drizzle melted coconut oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
- Cut the ends off of 2-3 cloves of garlic. place them into a square of aluminum foil, drizzle with oil, and wrap into a bundle. Place garlic bundle on baking sheet with cauliflower and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring cauliflower once during cooking.
- 5-10 minutes after you place cauliflower into oven, salt and pepper both sides of the duck breast. Place breast skin side down into a cold cast iron pan (or other oven proof pan). Turn heat to low and allow fat to slowly render. After about 10 minutes, increase heat slightly and continue to render fat for an additional 5 minutes. At this point carefully flip the breast and cook on other side for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to oven and roast for 8-10 minutes.
- When you transfer duck to the oven, remove cauliflower. Add cauliflower, sage leaves, 1 cup of canned pumpkin puree, salt and pepper to a food processor. Squeeze roasted garlic from its skin and add to food processor along with 1/4 cup light coconut milk (or milk of choice). Pulse and add more liquid as needed, until you reach a creamy consistency. Reserve.
- When the duck has finished cooking, remove the pan from the oven (carefully, as oil will splatter) and transfer breast to a cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes, draped in aluminum foil.
- Place cast iron pan over medium high heat and fry several sage leaves for 1-2 minutes. Remove and allow to drain on a paper towel. Carefully pour oil from pan into a container* and return pan to heat. Add a splash of wine and 1-2 teaspoons mustard. Stir until sauce is reduced, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Slice duck breast, divide between two plates and drizzle with pan sauce. Serve with puree, fried sage leaves, and salad greens. Add some crumbled feta or goat cheese if desired.
*save the rendered duck fat! Refrigerate and use it to make the most delicious potatoes you've ever had, or for sauteing vegetables.
Don't let me do all the talking! Let me know what you think in the comments.