Being a New Englander during the holidays made me think about how I would take a traditional dish and make it my own with a personal twist. A main course dish that I had in mind was pan roasted duck breast; and I thought I’d pair it with an iconic New England holiday dish – succotash (especially for Thanksgiving). Basically succotash is a boiled dish of corn and beans. While there were a lot of online recipes for succotash, I really wanted to know/understand the origins of the dish before setting out to make my own. A friend of mine, Laura, helped out and asked a friend at Plimouth Plantation (Plymouth, MA) about how the original recipe was done. The recipe was basically equal parts of corn (hominy – dried indian corn) and beans in a meat broth.
Scaling down the recipe –
15 oz gray corned beef
15 oz fowl
3 oz lean salt pork
3.6 oz dry white navy beans
12 oz boiling potatoes
12 oz white green-top turnip
11.25 oz cans whole hominy (2.8125 oz can yellow)
Upon reflection, the use of the basic ingredients said to me: umami broth, corn, beans and turnips. The use of the hominy in the boiled dish indicated that the corn was being rehydrated in the broth and that made me think of cooking (at least) the corn and beans in chinese superior broth. Because the duck was such a rich ingredient I thought I’d put one last twist on it – I thought I’d give it a fresher taste by applying Nobu’s simple red onion/chili salsa (see the online NY Times recipe at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/24/dining/the-chef-nobu-matsuhisa.html ). So the adapted recipe I decided to use was –
3 cups of chinese superior broth
1 cup sweet corn
1 cup edamame
1 cup turnip ‘pearls’ (using a melon baller)
1 cup red onion (finely diced)
4 teaspoons jalapeno (seeded, finely diced)
6 tablespoons yuzu juice
6 tablespoons soy sauce
I first mixed the diced red onion, jalapeno with the soy and yuzu and set it aside.
I brought the corn/edamame/turnip pearls in the chinese superior broth (making sure the broth covered the
ingredients) to a boil with a teaspoon of salt (the broth was made using the Niman Ranch Jambon Royal, and not the Smithfield this time around) and then simmered for about 5 minutes, and then drained
the corn/edamame/turnip (I then set it aside and covered it to keep it warm).
So I thought this succotash salsa would be a great partner for a pan roasted duck breast. Chef Gordon Ramsay says to cook seasoned duck breast skin side down in a cold pan, with the heat turned on high so that the fat is rendered out. Then flip it over to sear the other side and then pop them into a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, skin side down. You watch Chef Ramsay preparing the duck breast here:
Even though Chef Ramsay had mentioned the use of a non-stick pan, I pulled out my All Clad saute pan and popped the duck breasts onto it cold and the cranked the heat to high and watched the fat begin to render out. As I suspected, after about 3 or so minutes, I gave the duck breasts a nudge from my spatula and they pretty easily detached from the bottom of the pan. I lifted them up to check underneath periodically to make sure the skin didn’t burn. The rendering process took about 7 or so minutes. The duck breasts were then flipped over to sear on the other side (which only took a minute or two – and I tapped the skin to hear whether or not it sounded crisped). While the duck was being cooked on the stove, I preheated my countertop oven to 475 degrees, and lined the oven pan with non-stick foil and got that pan into the oven.
The key thing that Chef Ramsay mentions is that if you’re going to transfer the duck breast to an oven tray, that oven tray has got to be as hot as the pan in which you were cooking. I sort of like this preparation because it’s very similar to the lamb chop preparation that’s done at Nobu. So when the duck was ready, I transferred it into the countertop oven and reduced the heat to 400 degrees.
When the cooking was nearly done, I ‘drained’ the red onion/jalapeno/soy/yuzu juice salsa and and combined the salsa into the succotash and then placed it onto the serving plates as a bed for the roasted duck breast.
I had a pretty good idea how the dish was going to taste; but my wife was surprised at how well it turned out. She wasn’t so sure the addition of the red onion in the salsa was going to match well. The acidity/bite of the salsa within the succotash proved to be a good counterpoint and complement to the richness of the duck.