Salt-Crusted Duck | Sweet Potato Gnocchi|Chocolate Gastrique

I learned something this winter: duck breasts come in packs of four (at least when you buy them at the farmer’s market). Whenever I’ve seen them at places like Whole Foods, they’re in two packs…for about $30. Now, I was resigned to pay that much at the market because I thought it was the norm, but this time, I opened it up and found two “bonus breasts” (can I trademark that?). I made the first two for Dani’s birthday, and decided to risk my good fortune on a weird experiment.

Have you ever added too much salt to your meal? It’s game over, right? My mom used to fix it by adding sliced potatoes, or spinach to hopefully pull the salt out, or add enough water that you couldn’t taste it anymore. Well, I’m about to blow your mind, and use way more salt than you’re used to–and everything’s gonna be alright.

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Mix kosher salt, dried herbs, and a few spices, then pat the meat dry, brush with egg whites, and coat the whole thing in that salt. It’s gonna look like a heart attack…even worse after it cooks…but stay with me.

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I usually like to sear duck breasts  quickly, and cook to about medium, but I pushed this one closer to medium-well. Thankfully, it still tasted really good..you just have to prepare yourself for that first look out of the oven…

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That salt, and fat is going to crystalize, and the meat won’t look edible. Don’t worry, just let it cool, crack the salt shell, and scrape away the rest. The meat will look sad, but it just needs to be seared. I’d suggest cutting away all the fat, since it will be inedibly salty. Sear the meat on high for about thirty seconds, then set aside.

Next I made a “chocolate” gastrique– the sauce you always hear chefs use on TV. It’s a sweet/sour sauce with a cool combination of lightly burnt sugar, and acid. I caramelized brown sugar,  deglazed with cider vinegar, then finished with orange juice, zest, and cocoa powder. Dude…

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Dani and I made a huge batch of sweet potato gnocchi the night before,  and this time she made sure they were the correct shape! Check that post for detailed instructions on the process.

So, the verdict? The salt crust actually works, but it’s probably best with larger pieces of meat. The duck was delicious, though, and that sauce…I’ll say it again: dude.

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

2 Duck Breasts

1 Orange, juiced and zested

2 Tbs Cider Vinegar

1 Cup Kosher Salt

1 Tbs Brown Sugar

1 Tsp Coriander

1 Tsp Black Pepper

1 Tsp Dried Rosemary

1 Tsp Dried Thyme

1 Tsp Orange Peel

1 Tsp Cocoa Powder

  1. Pat the duck breasts dry, then score the fat with a sharp knife. Combine spices, herbs, and salt, then coat the breasts on a large baking sheet. Let stand for fifteen minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475, then roast the duck for roughly 20 minutes, then remove and let rest. Remove all excess salt, then sear in a fresh pan.
  3. Caramelize brown sugar in a sauce pan, then deglaze with cider vinegar, and stir vigorously. Add orange juice, zest, and cocoa powder, then season with a pinch of salt, and cool.
  4. Serve everything with your gnocchi, and your choice of vegetables.

Done.

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