Chef's Table Recipe: Seared Duck Breasts with Caramelized Onions, Mustard Greens and Apples

Serving duck is a delicious alternative to steak or chicken—and much easier than you may think. James Beard House featured chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli of NYC's Butter created this delicious, seasonal duck dish.

Serves 4 Ingredients

½ cup honey
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2-4 boneless duck breasts, skin-on Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
36-44 small Pearl or cipollini onions, trimmed and peeled
4 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound mustard greens, trimmed, washed, dried and torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Combine the honey and water in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the vanilla, cinnamon, juniper berries, and fennel seeds, stirring to blend. Simmer until the sauce turns light brown and slightly syrupy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the vinegar, and set aside to cool.

To cook the duck, heat a sauté pan large enough to accommodate the 4 breasts in a single layer over medium-high heat. Season the duck liberally with salt and pepper and, when the pan starts to smoke lightly, place the duck breasts skin side down in a single layer. Cook until the duck has rendered its fat and the skin is crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the breasts over, carefully settling them back into the pan so the hot fat doesn't splash. Remove from heat and allow the duck to cook gently for an additional minute. Remove from the pan and place skin side up on a plate to rest while you cook the onions. Remove half of the fat from the pan and reserve it for cooking the apples. Keep the remaining fat in the pan for cooking the onions.

To cook the onions, add them to the same pan that you used for the duck and season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add about ¼ cup of water and continue cooking onions until they are tender in the center when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 10 more minutes. Add the duck breasts, flesh side down, back to the pan and cook for 3 to 5 additional minutes for medium-rare, 6 to 8 minutes for medium, or a few more for well-done. Season one more time with salt and pepper and transfer the duck and onions to a platter.

Next, cook the apples. While the pan is still hot, add the reserved duck fat and the apples and cook over medium heat until the apples are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Strain some of the reserved syrup into the pan with the apples, discarding the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, and juniper berries. Continue cooking, periodically adding more syrup to coat the apples as they cook and become tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and spoon on top of the duck breasts.

To cook the mustard greens, heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard greens and season with salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two to wilt them. Transfer from the pan to a bowl, drain any excess liquid, and add the balsamic vinegar.

Serve on a platter family style or to plate individual portions, slice the duck breasts, arrange on plates over the mustard greens and spoon apples and onions around the duck.

Chef's Notes:

You can soften cipollini onions to make them easier to peel. To do this, put them in a bowl and cover them with hot tap water for about 10 minutes. The outer layers should then come off easily with a paring knife.

To learn more about the James Beard Foundation, Click Here.

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