Last night, I felt like cooking a duck breast, which we haven’t had in a while. Unless you serve it cold in a salad, it’s not really a summer dish in my opinion. But since it’s now officially Autumn… Duck breast, magret de canard, is the Frenchy equivalent of chicken breast, especially here in the SW of the country. Duck breast-halves [to be precise] are usually sold individually, weighing roughly 400 g each, so they are a perfect serving size for two hungry diners. Even though ducks are birds, their meat is largely red meat, like game meat and as such, it has twice as much cholesterol as chicken meat. On the other hand, it contains considerably less salt and is richer in vitamin A. Not to mention that duck meat is hugely more flavorful and tastier than their bland, white-fleshed cousins!
Since magret de canard is very easy and quick to prepare, I started with one of the two condiments I wanted to serve with the duck, a confit d’oignon, or, if you wish, a thick onion jam. The other one, our recent fig confit was ready-to-go in the fridge. For the onion dish, I roughly chopped two medium yellow onions and half of a large red onion. These pieces I cooked in duck fat, of course, very, very slowly over a very, very low flame for a very, very long time. The goal here is to soften the onion fibers, to melt them almost. Browning actions are forbidden. One just has to stir ever so often, the low heat does the rest thus leaving you free to do a load of laundry, finish a book, take dancing lessons online, or make Spätzle. Forty or so minutes later, I turned up the heat to medium-high and added a handful of very lean bacon bits [if you have duck lardon, all the better]. Stir, stir, stir the zizzling mess and splash some red wine vinegar into the pan while turning down the heat again. Scrape bits from the bottom, add a dollop of stone-ground mustard and another one of natural honey, and a dusting of cucurma. Stir it all to mix the flavors, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan and forget about it till serving time.
For our side dish, I have to admit I cheated. Instead of making my Spätzle from scratch like a good Schwäbian Hausfrau should, I used a store-bought product from the Alsace, which is kind of a little bit like German made, sort of. Mea culpa! To prepare these [excellent!] Spätzle, I browned bread crumbs in duck fat [you recognize the theme here, right?] in which I then tossed the ready-made noodles until hot.
The Spätzle action happened while the duck breast was roasting in the oven. This is how it got there:
- Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF or convection 160ºC/325ºF with a small roasting pan inside.
- Unwrap duck breast, pat dry with a paper towel, cut off excess fat, and remove any remaining quill bits from the skin.
- Score the skin and under-laying fat in a narrow diamond pattern WITHOUT touching the meat.
- Place the duck breast skin side down in a COLD frying pan.
- Turn the heat under the ducky on low.
- Render as much fat as will flow freely into the pan for about 8 min or until the skin is nicely browned.
- Turn the breast on the meat side and fry for 1 minute in its own fat.
- Transfer the duck breast to the hot roasting pan in the oven and bake for 8 mins or less, depending on size.
- Wrap duck breast in alu and let rest for 10 mins.
- Sprinkle some shredded cheese on the hot Spätzle.
- Slice duck breast.
- Serve Duck & Käsespätzle with Fig & Onion Confits
When Barry saw me snapping this picture, he grumbled “how come you only photograph your own cooking?”
Not true! A few days earlier, he cooked, as always, a Chinese dish. This time he prepared a fish dish he had never done before and it turned out beautiful and gorgeous and very tasty. Here’s the proof that I do not only snap my own dishes!
And this is the delicious result