Muscovy duck, sous vide carrot, quick-pickled parsnips, beet puree

I recently bought a Muscovy duck breast to make some prosciutto at home (a post in the making!). However it was HUGE and I only used half for the prosciutto, leaving me with just over half a pound of duck breast to try and use up. This dish is what I came up with.

Duck breast has a very fatty layer of skin, and is traditionally paired with sweet sauces and accompaniments to cut through it a bit. I had no interest in making a stale classic like Duck a l'Orange (duck with a sweet orange sauce) and was inspired instead to try pairing the meat with earthy root vegetables such as beets.

A note on sous vide: Since my last post I've been cooking all my proteins sous vide. However, I wasn't able to find a satisfactory sous vide preparation for duck, as the fatty skin needs to be rendered out low and slow in a pan. In this recipe, we'll be pan frying the duck breast and using the sous vide for some baby carrots instead, a technique praised by Serious Eats for yielding tender and very carrot-y carrots. If you don't have a sous vide unit, you can also prepare the carrots in a pan. Note that we're using actual baby carrots with stems attached, not the round nubbins cut from larger carrots! Finally we'll quick-pickle some parsnips and serve it on top of a beet puree.

The pickling technique used here is not at all specific to parsnips. In fact, the parsnips were an afterthought. I was hoping to use candy-striped beets, also known as Chioggia beets, which have a beautiful striped interior, but couldn't find any at the store. Try your hand at pickling other vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, or carrots!

Ingredients

For 2 servings.

1/2 lb Muscovy duck breast

1 bunch baby carrots, about 7-8

2 tsp butter

Greens for garnish, such as watercress

For the pickled parsnips:

1 parsnip

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup champagne vinegar

2 tsp kosher salt

Whole peppercorns

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 tsp sugar

For the beet puree:

3 red beets

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

1-inch section ginger

1 Tbsp butter

3 Tbsp chicken broth

Equipment

Sous vide setup (optional)

Vacuum sealer (optional)

Mandoline (optional)

Blender or food processor

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare the carrots: heat your sous vide unit to 183F (vegetables require much higher temps than proteins for sous vide to break down starches and cell walls). Peel and trim the carrots, and place in a vacuum seal or ziploc bag with the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Vacuum seal the bag or use the water displacement method, and drop it in the water bath for at least 1 hour. If you don't have a sous vide setup, braise the carrots in chicken broth for 20 minutes instead.
  3. When the carrots have about 40 minutes remaining, prepare the beets: peel and slice the beets to 1/2 inch thickness. Peel the ginger and thinly slice along with the garlic. Place the beet, garlic, and ginger in a foil packet, season with salt and pepper, and add a drizzle of olive oil. Loosely crimp the foil packet closed and roast for 40 minutes.
  4. While the beets are roasting, prepare the pickled parsnips: peel several inches of a whole parsnip, and slice very thinly with a mandoline or knife. For the pickling liquid, combine the water, champagne vinegar, peppercorns, garlic, sugar, and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Pour over the parsnips and refrigerate in a small container until ready to use.
  5. When the beets are almost finished, prepare the duck breast. Slice a grid pattern through the fat of the breast, making sure not to cut the meat, and season with salt and pepper. Place skin-side down onto a pan and heat to medium heat (we're rendering out the fat, not searing). Render the fat for about 6 minutes, spooning excess out into a container as necessary.
  6. Flip the breast and sear about 2 minutes on the bottom side and a minute on each of the sides. We're aiming for an internal temperature of 135F - if the breast isn't up to temperature finish it in the oven with the beets for several minutes. Remove from the pan and let rest on a paper towel for 5 minutes.
  7. When the beets are finished roasting, transfer all contents of the packet to a blender, add the butter, and 1 Tbsp of the chicken broth. Blend very thoroughly until smooth, and blend in the remaining chicken broth until you reach the consistency you'd like. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. When the carrots are finished, remove them from the bag. You can finish them in a pan to reduce the bag liquid to a glaze, or eat them as is.
  9. Remove some pickled parsnips from the liquid and pat dry with a paper towel.
  10. To plate: add a large spoonful of the beet puree to each plate and brush it downwards with a knife or palette knife. Slice the duck breast into 3 pieces (the uneven end slice can be cut in half and split between plates) and place on top of the puree. Lean a few carrots against the duck and around the dish. Add the slices of pickled parsnip, and garnish with the greens. Finally, add some finishing salt such as Maldon to the top of the duck breast.

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