Sometimes the inspiration for a dish comes from a wine that I wanted to drink with it. Sometimes it comes from what is in season. Sometimes it comes from what I see at the market (which is often the same as what is in season, naturally). This dish has a bit of all of the above. It started with a 2004 Barbaresco that I knew would work well with duck breast and a red wine reduction. Garden peas, sold in the pod, are in season, and are only available for a few weeks every year. (They are best when they are freshly picked. Otherwise, frozen peas are a great substitute.) Barbaresco works well with earthy flavors, and I saw chanterelle mushrooms at the market. And so this dish was born.
As you can see the duck breast is cooked a perfect medium/medium rare from edge to edge, thanks to the use of sous vide. But you can also finish cooking the duck breast in the oven.
For 4 servings
2 duck breasts, 500 grams (1.1 lbs) total weight
500 grams (1.1 lbs) peas in the pod, or 250 grams (about 2 cups) shelled peas (frozen is fine)
12 chanterelle mushrooms
500 ml (2 cups) homemade chicken stock, without salt
250 ml (1 cup) red wine
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot
1 Tbsp high quality extra virgin olive oil
Score the skin/fat side of the duck breasts in a lattice pattern, making sure not to cut into the meat. Scoring the skin will prevent it from curling up too much during cooking and will facilitate rendering the fat from the skin. Season the skin with salt, rubbing it into the lattice pattern with your fingers. Do not season the flesh side yet.
Render the fat from the skin in a dry frying pan (i.e. without oil or butter) over medium-high heat. If the heat is too high, the skin will burn before enough fat has rendered from it. If the heat is too low, the flesh will be cooked too much before enough fat has rendered from the skin, or the skin won’t become golden brown. This takes a bit of practice. Check the skin regularly and keep going until it is nicely browned, not burnt.
Right before you turn the breasts, season the flesh side with salt.
Turn them, and cook very briefly on the flesh side, just enough to give them a nice sear.
Allow the seared duck breasts to cool on a plate.
Reserve the pan with the rendered duck fat to cook the mushrooms later on.
To finish cooking the duck breasts in the oven, put them in an oven at 160C/325F until the core temperature reaches 55C/131F. Then take them out of the oven and allow them to rest, wrapped in aluminum foil, for 5 to 10 minutes.
To cook them sous vide, allow the breasts to cool completely, and then vacuum seal them. (Only if you are using a ziplock bag, it is not needed to allow them to cool first.) Cook sous-vide for at least 2 hours at 57C/135F. I prefer to cook them for 4 hours or so, as that will make the meat more tender.
To make the red wine sauce, pour the red wine into a saucepan.
Add the chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered…
…until reduced to about a quarter.
Meanwhile, shell the peas (if using peas in the pod). I neglected to take photos of cooking the peas. You can steam or boil them. The cooking time depends on the size of the peas and can range anywhere from a few minutes to a quarter of an hour. Taste for doneness. Season the peas with salt, and stir in a bit of high quality extra virgin olive oil.
Cook the mushrooms in the reserved duck fat…
…until they are cooked. Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper after cooking, not before.
Mix the cornstarch or arrowroot with a small amount of cold water, and stir well. Add this slurry to the red wine reduction…
…together with the juices from the sous vide bag. Bring to a boil, stirring.
Pat the skin side of the duck breast dry and dry fry in a frying pan for a minute to crisp up the skin. Sear on the flesh side for 30 seconds.
Slice the meat and serve it with the peas, mushrooms, and sauce on preheated plates.
As mentioned in the introduction, we enjoyed this with a Barbaresco. This ‘sister’ of the famous Barolo is usually a bit lighter than a Barolo, and so more suitable for such a summery dish. Other medium bodied reds with earthy notes would also work well.
Erbazzone is a savory pie from the town of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy that is filled with chard (and sometimes also other greens, including spinach).