[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on the PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Garlic Duck Breast with Root Vegetables
17 November 2011

I've been experimenting with duck lately, ever since I found that, pound-for-pound, duck is no more expensive than chicken - at least from the upstate network of co-ops and organic producers I use. Duck is in many ways more forgiving than chicken, the extra fat keeps it moist and gives you a bit more leeway in cooking times. Sure the meat is darker than chicken, but that is usually no bad thing.

Ironically, I had planned to do a simple roast chicken with root vegetables, since I've still got the usual selection of fall produce about the place, but I was stymied by my own poor labeling. I pulled out a bird to thaw and realized it was a duck not a chicken. This led me to consider riffs on roasting, and the result is below.

Garlic Duck Breast with Root Vegetables

[Broken down duck] If you are using a whole duck, the first step is to dismember the critter. I have gotten in the habit of trimming the last joint of the wing on most of fowl and saving it for stock, which I suggest doing since there's so little usable meat on it. For this recipe, remove the rest of the wing as well, and also the leg quarters and save for another use. Confit would be a fine choice for those bits. The back comes out and goes to stock as well. The giblets get saved for some other purpose to be decided upon later - I've got nearly enough now for duck liver paté. That leaves you with the whole breast section. Hopefully your duck has a nice long flap of skin attached at the neck, that will come in handy in a bit. Put the breast down on the counter and give it a good lean, really push down on it. You'd like to flatten it a bit, and if you hear it crack as you press, that's a good sign.

Slice your vegetables, excepting the garlic, medium thin, perhaps in the quarter-inch range. My food processor works by millimeters, and I think have a 7mm blade that I used. It might be a 6mm. Layer the vegetables in a large casserole or roasting dish. Potatoes probably should go on the bottom with carrots in the middle, but I highly recommend putting the onions on the top. If you'd like, give each layer a light dusting of salt; you could skip that salting and just be extra generous when you salt the bird, which is what I opted for.

Peel and chop your garlic. You can let yourself go a bit on quantities at this point. If ten cloves doesn't seem like enough, by all means use more! After you've gotten then broken down a bit, sprinkle with just a touch of salt and set them aside for moment.

[The Veg] Now for the tricky bit. Starting at either end of the breast, gently work your fingers or a spoon or something similar up under the skin. Be careful! You want to avoid breaking the skin if you can. In fact, I couldn't, and broke through at one point. However, it's not the end of the world if you do pop through, especially if you've got that extra flap of skin still attached.

Having loosened the skin, push as much of your lightly salted garlic up under the skin as you can. Salt and pepper the breast. Be especially liberal in your application of salt. If you've got a skin flap, flop it down back across the breast, casually covering any holes you might have made loosening the skin, and salt and pepper it as well. Place on top of the vegetables. Any extra garlic, as if there could be such a thing as "extra" garlic, can be arranged artistically on and around the duck breast.

Put the whole contraption into a 410F oven for 15 minutes, then put the heat back down to 350F for another forty-five minutes or so. The exact time will depend on the size of your duck breast, of course. When you get close, check it either with a meat thermometer or by jamming a skewer into it and seeing if the juices run clear. If you want, when you make your first check, if it isn't done, flip the breast over, just to give it a chance to cook more evenly. This is also the point where you might want to break off the crispy extra flap of skin and eat it before any one else gets a chance. Chef's perq, you know.

Once the duck is done to your liking, pull it off the vegetables to rest and see if the veg themselves are done. If they aren't pop them back into the oven for another while. This, by the by, is where the duck meat shines. If you want, you can probably leave the duck in with the veg for another fifteen minutes or even half an hour. It will be more well done, which may not be what you want, but it should still be moist and delicious. In any case, do let it rest for a few minutes before serving, while your vegetables finish up.

[Out of the oven] The duck fat should have melted down into the vegetables, giving them a wonderful flavor, and carrying down some of the salt as well. Make sure to have salt on the table, since they may need a bit more. An acid relish or chutney goes well with the duck, we had some cranberry-lime that worked a treat.

I wouldn't recommend making this dish with chicken, since not only would the chicken breast be easy to overcook, but it also wouldn't give up the same kind of flavorful fat that helps makes the root vegetables so good.

If you use my quantities, you will have quite a bit of duck-fatty vegetables left over. This is a good thing. Put some of that in a bowl, top with some diced cheese, ideally something in a swiss-ish vein, microwave or broil until the cheese is melted and top with mustard - and, that, my friends, is a fine lunch.

© 2011 Jeff Berry
The Aspiring Luddite