Thursday, September 6, 2012

Seared Duck Breast with Highbush Cranberry Sauce, Double Cream Brie, Candied Walnuts, Arugula, Thyme Honey, and Raisin and Apple Bread

Ingredients (see recipe where applicable)

Duck Breasts
Double Cream Brie
Candied Walnuts
Thyme Honey (any other type is acceptable)
Raisin and Apple Bread (recipe possibly forthcoming)


Begin by patting your duck breasts dry, and cross hatching the layer of fat. To do this lay the knife flat against the surface of the fat and slightly push down while dragging the blade across. Continue every ¼ inch or so and then proceed to do the same thing on an angle perpendicular to the incisions you just made. You should end up with little ¼ inch diamonds over the surface of the skin. Do not cut all the way through the skin to the meat. The purpose of this is while cooking to let the excess fat render off and escape leaving you with beautiful crispy skin.

To cook the duck start with a cool pan (nonstick actually works rather well here, and this will probably be the only time I recommend nonstick, and a cold pan). The duck contains enough fat to cook itself in, so you will not need to add a cooking fat. Place the duck skin side down, and gently raise the temperature. As the pan heats the duck will render out the fat and you can increase the heat. When the skin is crispy (much like bacon), flip the breast over for a quick sear on the other side, remove, and slice.

For the candied walnuts, put 1/2 cup of sugar in a pan with just enough water to immerse the sugar in water (if you put in more it will just take longer). Bring to a simmer. While this is going on butter the sides of a large bowl, and save a few nubs. When the sugar has reached a brown color toss in a few nubs of butter, the walnuts and quickly toss them in the caramel. Transfer to the bowl and toss vigorously until the walnuts have cooled, you may have to use your fingers to break up some of the more stubborn ones. 

For the other ingredients simply arrange them as you would for any other salad.


You will have leftover duck fat, either save it in the fridge or take left over bread and fry it in the duck fat. When it is crispy top with brie and put in the oven till the brie melts, drizzle with honey and prepare for either a culinary orgasm, a food coma, and/or a heart attack.

Highbush Cranberry Sauce

1 lb Highbush Cranberry
2 ¼ cup Sugar
¾ cup Water
¼ packet Pectin

Whilst on one of my forays into the bush I stumbled on these beauties among a few other treats I have yet to write about. Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) is actually not a cranberry at all, or even in the same family. The name comes from the fact that is looks, and tastes very similar to cranberries. It is not without its differences however. The highbush cranberry has a certain muskiness about it that, in fact when you are stemming, sorting, and boiling them down they smell a lot like a high school boys locker room -but dont let this stop you from giving it a shot. This plant was used extensively by Native Americans, is extremely high in vitamin C, and with a little sweetness can be quite tasty.

Start by stemming your berries, followed by a good wash!

Next, take the berries and put them into a pot with the water and bring to boil. While waiting for them to come to the boil grab your trusty potato masher and start squishing the berries. They will not squish like most berries and more or less pop and/or explode -be prepared for the ensuing cranberry atomic bomb going off on your stove.

After 10 minutes or so of simmering, put your highbush cranberries into a jelly bag or cheese cloth and let drain for a quite a few hours. If you are not overly concerned about the clarity of the sauce feel free to give it a squeeze to help it along.

Bring your highbush cranberry liquid back onto the stove, add pectin and sugar, bring to the boil.

Either let cool in a container and refrigerate until it “sets,” or follow the typical procedure for hot bath preservation.

*you may have to use more or less pectin to get desired consistency,  or use an immersion blender to break it up. It would also be acceptable to use gelatin or agar agar.