The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin is filled with examples of her exceptional talent. The main course dishes are just that: complete and often with a touch of complexity. Like this duck delight with sweet potato puree. We added, as you see in the picture, some broccoli to make sumptuous, if overloaded, plate.
In the recipe below from the cookbook, Suzanne suggests you finish the duck with a sweet-sour sauce made from citrus, honey, spices and chile. In our case, in the picture above, you’ll see a different sauce: a standard red wine sauce that we used for color and contrast. Either way, the duck will be delectably delicious.
For some reason, Suzen has found that folks can reluctant to eat ducks and rabbit. She works with people to overcome their reserve. It’s not Donald Duck or the Easter Bunny, she tells them. It’s just protein. Even folks with no “cartoon” reservations often worry about duck.
Yes, duck is a bit fatty, but that fat is essential to the rich flavor and wonderful tenderness that duck offers. Suzanne has the following note to this recipe for dealing with the inevitable dripping fat and resultant fires. You don’t need a fire extinguisher, but you do need to stand right over that grill with tongs at the ready:
The trick to grilling duck breasts is to cook them two-thirds of the way on the skin-side to render the fat and yield crispy skin. The rendering fat will inevitably drip into the fire, causing flare-ups, so make sure to move the duck breasts around the grill as needed.
Grilled Duck Breast with Preserved Citrus Peel and Sweet Potato Puree
Yield: serves 6
- 3 pounds Jewel or Garnet sweet potatoes
- 6 single, boneless Peking duck breasts, 6 to 8 ounces each
- 1 ounce tamarind (available at Mexican and Asian markets)
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 orange
- ½ grapefruit
- ½ cinnamon stick, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon curry powder
- 1 chile de arbol, crumbled
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1-by-l-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons whole milk, plus more as needed
- 2 ounces dandelion greens, cleaned and dried
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, place them on a baking sheet, and bake for about 60 to 90 minutes (depending on their size), until tender when poked with a paring knife.
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before cooking, and remove the duck from the refrigerator. Cut away any extra fat, score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife, and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Using your hands, break the tamarind apart into small pieces, and place it in a small bowl. Pour ½ cup boiling water over the tamarind, and let it sit for 3 minutes. Stir the tamarind vigorously with a small whisk or spoon, to loosen all the pulp and emulsify it with the water.
Using a peeler, make strips of zest about 1 inch wide from all the citrus. (Use a light hand when zesting to avoid the bitter white pith.) Place the zest strips in a small pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, drain, rinse with cool water, and repeat the process two more times.
Juice all the citrus (you should have about 1 cup), and place juice with the blanched zest in a nonreactive pot that is small enough so that all the zest is submerged. Add the cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon, curry, chile, cardamom, ginger, honey, and ½ teaspoon salt. Strain 2 tablespoons “tamarind water” from the bowl of soaking tamarind, and add it to the pot.
Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the sauce thickens and looks glossy. Set aside.
When the sweet potatoes have cooled just enough to handle, cut them in half. Use the knife and your fingers to peel off the skins and cut away any burnt pieces. Scoop the hot sweet-potato flesh into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Puree to a smooth consistency. With the blade spinning, pour in 2 tablespoons milk (plus a little more if the potatoes are too starchy to move fluidly around the bowl). Taste for balance and seasoning.
Place the duck breasts skin-side down on the cooler side of the grill. As they cook, rotate the breasts in a quarter-turn pattern every 2 minutes or so, to allow the fat to render and the skin to crisp. (This will take 6 to 8 minutes total.) Turn the breasts over, and cook a few more minutes, until the duck is medium-rare and still springy to the touch. Remove from the heat, and rest for 5 minutes on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
Spoon the hot sweet-potato puree onto the center of six dinner plates, and place two dandelion greens, overlapping at their stems, on each one. Slice each duck breast on the diagonal, and arrange the slices on top of the puree. Spoon some of the warm preserved citrus peel and some of the juices over the duck and around the plate.
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for1/50th second at ISO 1000