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Duck Breast with Braised Vidalia Onions and Cannellini Beans
Makes 4 Servings
*1/4 cup large-diced bacon
*1 stalk celery, cut into 3 large pieces
*1 carrot, peeled and cut into 3 large pieces
*1 small yellow onion, cut into large pieces
*1 cup cannellini beans, soaked overnight in water
*4 cloves garlic
*2 tbls. butter
*Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*3 small Vidalia onions, peeled with root end left attached
*12 purple pearl onions, peeled
*1 cinnamon stick
*3 whole cloves
*1 red Thai chile
*4 juniper berries, toasted and crushed
*2 bay leaves
*1 clove garlic
*2 cups Chicken Stock
*1 cup cooked beans (above)
*Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*2 duck breasts, skin scored
*Salt and freshly ground black pepper
*1 1/2 cups loosely packed watercress, thick stems discarded
*1 tbls. minced shallot
*1/2 cup hot Meat Stock Reduction
*4 tsp. Basil Oil
*1/4 cup micro herbs (or chopped fresh herbs)
*Freshly ground black pepper
1To prepare the beans: Render the bacon in a saucepan over low heat until all the fat is released, about 5 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and add to the vegetables with the garlic and butter; pour in water to cover. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours, or until the beans are very tender. Discard the vegetables and bacon pieces and season the beans to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve 1 cup of the beans separately.
2To prepare the onions and puree: Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Cut the Vidalia onions into sixths, keeping the root attached (this will help keep the pieces from falling apart during cooking). Place all the onions, the spices and herbs, the garlic and the stock in an ovenproof pan with a lid. Cook, covered, for 1 hour or until the onions are tender. Transfer 6 pieces of the Vidalia onion and any cooking liquid that remains in the pan to a blender; add the 1 cup reserved beans. Puree until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat the puree and roasted onions just prior to use, if necessary.
3To prepare the duck: Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper and place in a very hot saute pan, skin side down. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until the skin is golden brown and crispy and the duck is medium-rare. Allow the duck to rest for 2 minutes, then thinly slice on the diagonal. Drain the fat from the pan. Place the watercress and shallot in the same pan; quickly wilt and season to taste with salt and pepper.
4Assembly: Spoon some of the onion-bean puree in an oval ring on each plate. Arrange some of the onion pieces and whole beans on the right side of the oval, allowing a few pieces to cascade toward the other side. Arrange some of the duck slices and wilted watercress, overlapping, on the right side of the plate. Spoon the warmed Meat Stock Reduction around the plate. Drizzle the Basil Oil around the plate and sprinkle with the micro herbs. Top with pepper.
5WINE NOTES: There is a stunning complexity of flavor in this dish. The earthy aspects of the roasted duck and the spiced braised onions require a medium- to full-bodied Italian red from Tuscany. Gagliole rosso has the structure to stand up to the duck, along with spice elements that pair well with the braised onions. As a counterbalance to the fattiness of the duck, this Tuscan red has a cleansing acidity.
  • This entree, while exhibiting a sensual earthiness, is actually quite refined in its flavors and textures. The marriage of onions, cannellini beans and watercress provides the perfect subtle backdrop for the duck. Fragrant notes of cinnamon and juniper add a playful accent. Chicken, pork tenderloin or salmon would be admirable substitutions here.

Recipes courtesy of Workin' More Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter, published by Ten Speed Press, 2004