Friday, January 4, 2013

Roast Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce

It looks like today is a poultry day.  I started off the morning with a post about roast chicken breasts and now I am following it up with roast duck breasts.  I have a number of other posts that I could substitute for this one, but I am kind of digging the poultry theme I have going on so I am going to stick with it.  Anyway, this duck recipe is what I served Alex and my father for Christmas dinner.  There were other sides and such that went with it (including a version of this salad to which we added radishes and cherry tomatoes and a pumpkin cornbread - more on the cornbread later).  Since I was cooking I got to pick the recipes and duck was a no brainer because it is is one of my absolute favorite things to eat.  As far as I am concerned, a nice Peking duck is one of the finest meals in the world (a nice seared duck breast is a close second).  Brussels sprouts were another no brainer because I love them dearly and they are easy to roast.  This duck breast is one of those dishes that is more than the sum of its parts.  When I first tried the pomegranate-chile sauce I wasn't sure what I thought - it had a lot of flavor from the pomegranate juice, the adobo sauce and the dried chiles.  It was interesting, but I wasn't sure how it would go with the duck.  In some ways it almost reminded me of a really refined take on a BBQ sauce (if BBQ sauce ever involved pomegranates).  Duck is fatty enough and flavorful enough in its own right to work well with fairly aggressive sauces and seasonings, but I was a little worried that this might be taking it a little too far.  But once I tried a mouthful that combined the duck, the sauce and the little pomegranate seeds, I realized that it all came together really well.  The duck is rich, but the sweet, tart flavor of the pomegranate seeds and the slightly sweet, slightly spicy sauce make a really nice dish.  Given that the sauce starts with a caramel, I really expected it to be a little sweeter than it was, but the caramel gave it a nice deep, subtle sweetness to balance out the chiles.  I didn't think it was at all spicy (but if you have a more sensitive palate you might disagree), although the flavors of the chiles and adobo were definitely present.  You might need to modify the cooking times if your duck breasts are particularly large or small, but as written I think the recipe is pretty spot on for normal duck breasts.  This isn't the world's most refined and elevated duck recipe, but it is a very interesting and beautiful one.  Plus the colors were pretty perfect for Christmas if I may say so myself.

Recipe after the jump!

Roast Duck Breasts with Pomegranate-Chile Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit
December 2009

For sauce:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups refrigerated pomegranate juice (such as Pom)
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 large dried California or New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces (we used New Mexico chiles since we couldn't find California chiles)
1 1/2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo**
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin (not toasted)
Coarse kosher salt
For duck:
8 5-to 6-ounce boneless duck breast halves, skin and fat trimmed to size of breast
Coarse kosher salt
Ground coriander
Fresh pomegranate seeds

Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, swirling pan occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add juice, broth, and California chiles. Boil until sauce is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Puree in tightly covered blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Whisk in adobo sauce, vinegar, and cumin. Season to taste with generous amount of coarse salt and pepper. If your sauce is gritty, strain through a fine mesh sieve prior to serving.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Score skin of duck (don't cut into flesh) with 5 cuts in 1 direction; repeat in opposite direction, making diamond pattern. Sprinkle duck all over with coarse salt, pepper, and ground coriander. Place 2 large ovenproof skillets over medium-high heat. Add duck, skin side down, to skillets, dividing equally. Cook duck until skin is crisp and deep brown, about 7 minutes. Turn duck over; cook 1 minute. Pour off fat. Transfer skillets to oven. Roast duck until cooked to medium-rare, about 5 minutes.  (Our duck breasts were on the puny side so we skipped the roasting altogether and they turned out perfectly, but if your duck breasts are meatier you definitely want to roast them like this.)

Transfer duck to cutting board. Let rest 5 minutes. Thinly slice each breast crosswise on slight diagonal. Arrange slices on plates. Spoon sauce over. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

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