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Pan-seared Duck Breast Sous Vide Option

Duck breast is the meatiest part of the duck and with the correct type of duck breast selected, you can cook it like a steak as did Chef Andre Daguin for the first time in 1959.

Julian's Pan-seared Duck Breast
The first time diner usually says 'that must have been a very big duck'. The breast half served as a single portion is much larger than you might find on a whole duck in your grocer's meat case. That's because duck breast used for this purpose is the breast of a Moulard duck that has been reared for foie gras, which is called the magret. A Moulard duck is a cross between a Muscovy drake and a Pekin hen, and is a sizable bird with a well-developed breast. This makes it the preferred duck to produce foie gras.

Raw Magret Duck Breasts
In 1959, at the Hotel de France in Auch, decorated Chef André Daguin prepared a magret like a steak for the first time. The story goes that the chef was out of ingredients when a late diner showed up and he had nothing left except for a tray of raw magrets waiting to be prepared in the classic methods. He grabbed one and seared it like a steak, and a new culinary tradition was born.

Resting before slicing. 
Today I'm giving you both of my methods for preparation; classic pan-seared and sous vide. Why sous vide, you ask? I always like to use the sous vide technique whenever a precise cooking temperature is required, as it will never over cook the item. I can also hold the duck at the perfect temperature until all my guests are situated and ready for dinner to be served. Regardless of which technique you choose, they both start the same.

Preparation for both Both Methods:
Start with moulard duck magret, breast halves, one for each diner. Trim away excess fat that extends beyond the edge of the meat if necessary. Then score the fat side in a cross-hatch pattern, without cutting all the way through to the meat, and season heavily with salt and pepper.

Stove Top Technique:
Heat a cast iron or heavy steel/stainless pan on high, and place the duck breast skin side down in the pan. No fat or oil is needed. Cook for about 8-10 minutes. Then lower the heat to medium and flip the breast over, cooking for about 3-4 minutes. Make sure the duck is not cooked beyond medium rare. Considerable amounts of duck fat will collect in the pan, so remove some of the excess as it cooks and set aside or discard.

Sous Vide Technique:
Fill your cooking vessel with water and set your sous vide device to 136F degrees. Let the water heat to temperature.  Place the prepared duck breast halves into a vacuum bag and remove the air. When the water is at temperature, submerge, insuring they are not laying on top of one another. Cook in the water bath for 1.5 hours. (They can hold in the bath for an additional hour if necessary.)  When about ready to serve, heat a cast iron or heavy steel/stainless pan on high, and place the duck breast skin side down in the pan. No fat or oil is needed. Cook for about 6-8 minutes to brown and render the fat from under the skin.

Finishing the Duck Breast:
Pan-seared duck breast goes well with all kinds of sauces and chutneys. I typically prepare a pan sauce consisting of berries or cherries and port wine (coming up on my blog in a few weeks). Alternatively a prepared chutney like Roland's Major Grey's also works well.

Serving the Duck Breast:
Let the duck breast rest for 10-15 minutes after removing from the skillet, then slice on the diagonal into 1/4 inch or so slices and fan out on the plate. Top with finishing sauce or chutney.

Note: The duck fat you saved can be used to roast the potatoes which will be excellent, or used for any other frying purpose where you want a very crispy result.

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