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Dining Tip: Duck Breast with Pears and Turnips

A New York chef's elegant dish pairs well with Tuscan reds

Posted: October 21, 2013

Recipe courtesy of Sisha Ortúzar, Riverpark, New York

• 2 boneless, skin-on duck breasts, about 8 ounces each
• Kosher salt to taste
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1/2 tablespoon butter
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme
• 4 Tokyo turnips (small, mild white turnips), each cut into quarters
• 2 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
• Poached pears (recipe below)
• 1 cup Port
• 1 cup duck or chicken demi-glace
• Juice of 2 limes, equal to a scant tablespoon
• Finely grated zest of 1/2 lime
• 1/2 tablespoon chopped cilantro, plus extra leaves to garnish
• 1 red radish, thinly sliced using a mandolin

1. Heat the oven to 375° F. Place the duck breasts, skin-side up, on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make crosshatch incisions just through the layer of fat, being careful not to cut into the meat.

2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Season both sides of the duck with salt and the cayenne pepper, then add the duck to the skillet, skin-side down. Cook the breasts until the skins are crisp and the fat is mostly rendered, about 5 minutes. Turn the breasts, add the butter and thyme to the skillet, then baste continuously for about a minute more.

3. Drain the duck fat from the pan and remove the thyme. Transfer the skillet to the oven to roast the breasts: 5 minutes for medium-rare, 8 minutes for medium. Using tongs, gently transfer the breasts to a roasting rack and allow them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

4. Meanwhile, add the turnips to the hot skillet and pan-roast them over medium heat until nicely browned on all sides. Add the shallots and poached pears and sauté until they begin to brown as well. Deglaze the pan with the Port first, until reduced, then add the demi-glace and continue cooking until the pan sauce is reduced but still fairly loose (and not yet to a syrup-like consistency). Finish with the lime juice, lime zest and cilantro. Season to taste with salt.

5. To serve, distribute the turnips and pears equally onto four plates. Slice the duck breasts and arrange one onto each plate over the turnips and pears. Garnish each plate with some sliced radish and a few cilantro leaves. Serves 2.

For the poached pears:
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme
• 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
• 2 pieces star anise
• 1 cup white wine  
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 pears, peeled, seeded and cut into 6 wedges

Using a square of cheesecloth and a piece of clean string, make a bouquet garni for the thyme, coriander seeds and star anise. Place it in a saucepan, along with the wine, sugar, thyme, coriander seeds and star anise and bring the ingredients to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add the pears and cook until very tender, about 6 minutes. Remove the pears from the liquid and let cool, then refrigerate until ready to use.


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