The holiday entertaining season is in full swing and will remain so for the next few weeks. Whether you're hosting an all-holiday open house, a reunion of old friends, a Hanukkah celebration, Christmas dinner or a New Year's bash, a duck dish—like the peppery duck steaks with parsley salad from veteran cook and award-winning author David Tanis' latest book, One Good Dish—is special occasion-worthy without being too much work to source or cook.
The recipe is written as a main course, but Tanis notes, "This is a dish that can take many forms; it's very versatile in a holiday setting. If you're doing stand-up drinks and snacks, make miniature one-bite duck sandwiches with toasted baguette or ciabatta. As a first course, combine slices of duck with shaved fennel or persimmon or curly endive (or all three). It's a good main course for a crowd, because it's just as easy to cook 3 or 4 breasts as it is one. They can rest for as long as half an hour before carving, so you can serve the duck hot or at room temperature."
Tanis suggests serving the dish with a chard gratin, potato galette or Moroccan-spiced carrots; recipes for all these sides also appear in One Good Dish. Syrah makes a fine wine accompaniment, and below we have provided a list of recently rated selections from Australia, Chile, France, Italy and the United States. Alternatively, Tanis says that the garlicky parsley salad allows the dish to stand up to California Zinfandel or Malbec from Argentina.
Excerpted from One Good Dish by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.
The method below will yield medium-rare meat. Tanis says, "This is the traditional French way to cook duck or squab, what is called rosé, pink, and it is delicious. It looks and tastes like a steak on the rare side. It cooks like a steak, too. To see if it's done, look for juices beginning to show on the surface. Because it is so lean, once the breast meat goes past medium rare, it is apt to get a bit dry, but there is some leeway. Seasoning it well in advance of cooking will also help it maintain juiciness."
1. With a sharp knife, remove the tenderloin from the underside of the duck breast and reserve for another purpose. (Tanis suggests searing it and eating it as a "cook's treat," or using a number of tenderloins, chopped, in a spicy stir-fry.) Trim any ragged bits or gristle. Turn the breast over and trim any excess fat from the edges. Score the skin by making shallow diagonal cuts, 1/2 inch apart, in one direction and then repeating in the other direction, creating a diamond pattern.
2. Season on both sides with the salt, then massage with the garlic paste. Press the crushed peppercorns evenly over both sides. Put the duck on a platter and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature, or refrigerate overnight (if the latter, bring to room temperature before cooking).
3. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. After 5 minutes, when the pan is hot, carefully add the duck breast skin side down and let it begin to sizzle. Using tongs, check to see that the skin is not browning too quickly, and reduce the heat as necessary. Be careful: The duck breast will render a fair amount of hot fat. The skin should be golden and crisp after 6 or 7 minutes. Turn the breast over and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes. (When the rendered duck fat has cooled a bit, strain into a jar and save for future use). Cut at an angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on a platter. Top with the parsley salad and serve. Serves 2 to 4.
Pick the parsley leaves from the stems—you want about 2 cups. Wash and gently dry with a clean towel. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, garlic and olive oil. The parsley leaves must be dressed at the very last minute. Season with a sprinkle of salt, then toss with the dressing to coat lightly and serve in a fluffy pile. Garnish with shavings of Parmesan, if desired.
RECOMMENDED SHIRAZ AND SYRAH
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.