Friday, November 19, 2010

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Butter-Braised Radishes, Broccoli, and Brussels Sprouts

Our friends at EatMore DrinkMore are obsessed with Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook. They’ve slaved over his recipes, dined at his restaurants, and have even spotted the legend himself. Seeing so much enthusiasm for him, when my mother asked me what kind of cookbook Chuck might like for his birthday, I immediately responded: Ad Hoc. We couldn’t believe how large the book is (very very heavy), but love the beautiful pictures, and the layout of the book. We chose duck for our first recipe because it is simply something we have no experience cooking. Most of the recipes in Ad Hoc suggest sides for main courses, so we went with the Butter-Braised Radishes, Kohlrabi (we substituted broccoli stalks), and Brussels Sprouts. The duck was cooked perfectly tender, and the veggies, well it made me like them more. I must say, the dish deserved an A+ and we will be using this book for many meals in the future.

Thomas Keller Restaurant Groups operates five well-known eating establishments, the most notable being The French Laundry in Yountville, CA. After the initial success of his first restaurant, Keller opened four more: Per Se, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc. He has written numerous books and has received many awards over the years, while making his way to becoming one of the most well-known chefs in America.

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts
reprinted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home
Dinner for 2

2 10-12 oz. Pekin (Long Island) duck breasts (I just got the duck breast available at Whole Foods, comes in a 2 pack)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Grated nutmeg
1 orange
Balsamic vinegar
2 thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
Canola oil
Sea salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/4-inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of each breast, being careful not to pierce the meat (see picture above). Do this while the duck is cold, since it's difficult to make such precise cuts at room temperature.

2. Turn the duck breasts skin-side-down on the baking sheet. If the tenderloins, the smaller piece of meat that runs along the bottom of the breast, are still attached, leave them on the breasts. Use a paring knife to remove the small white tendon that runs through each tenderloin. You will see a vein that runs the length of each breast. Run your finger down the length of each vein, and if any blood comes out, wipe it away with a paper towel. 

Note: The duck breasts we bought already had this done for us. We wrote in the directions in case you need them.

3. Season the flesh side of each breast with salt, pepper, and a grating of nutmeg. Grate a little orange zest over each breast and sprinkle with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Lay a sprig of thyme running lengthwise down the center of each breast and cover with a bay leaf. Turn over and season each breast with a generous pinch of salt and a grating of nutmeg. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 1 hour, or up to 12 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

5. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Set a metal bowl or other container near the stove. With a paper towel, blot any moisture from the duck breasts. Season both sides of each breast with a pinch of salt.

6. Pour some canola oil into a large ovenproof frying pans over medium-low heat. Add the duck skin-side-down. Move the duck breasts every few minutes to help them brown evenly. As the fat is rendered, carefully remove the excess from the frying pan: move the pan away from the heat when you remove the fat, since if any fat hits the flame it will cause flare-up.

7. Cook the duck for a total of 20-25 minutes, until the skin is an even rich brown and very crisp; the internal temperature of the breasts should be approximately 115 degrees F. Flip each breast and just "kiss" the meat side for about 30 seconds.

8. Put the duck skin-side-down in the oven and cook for about 5 minutes. The internal temperature should be 125 degrees F for a rosy medium-rare.

9. Put the duck breasts skin-side-down on the cooling rack and let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Cut each piece of duck lengthwise into 3 slices. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper.

Butter-braised Radishes, Broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
reprinted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home

12 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 bunches (about 18) Easter or red radishes
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock
Broccoli stalks
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives or mint (we used our fresh mint)

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Meanwhile, trim the root ends of the Brussels sprouts and remove and discard any tough or bruised outer leaves. Cut the sprouts in half through the root end.

2. Blanch the sprouts until tender, about 4 minutes. chill in the ice bath and drain. Transfer to a tray and put in the refrigerator to chill.

3. Trim the greens from the radishes and wash the radishes under cold water. Cut radishes into wedges.

4. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a saute pan big enough to hold the radishes in a single layer. Add the shallot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until softened. Add the radishes, sugar, and vinegar, season generously with salt and pepper, and add 1/4 cup of the stock. Bring to a simmer, cover the pan, and simmer gently for about 8 minutes, until the radishes are crisp-tender. Cook uncovered, swirling the pan, to glaze the radishes, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

5. For this next part, I used broccoli stalks instead of the kohlrabi the recipe actually calls for. Basically, cut the crowns off the broccoli and boil the stalks in water until tender. Drain and transfer to paper towels.

6. Bring remaining 1/4 cup of stock to a simmer in a large sauté pan. Whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter until emulsified and smooth. Add the Brussels sprouts and broccoli stalks and cook over high heat for 45 seconds.  Add the radishes and any liquid remaining in the pan and heat through. If the butter begins to break, you can swirl in another couple of tablespoons of stock or water. Toss in the chives and season with salt and pepper and a few drops of vinegar, or to taste. Transfer the vegetables to a platter.


  1. The duck preparation and dry rub is wasted time, you wont taste it. Just crosshatch and salt a duck breast at any temperature with a decent knife. An oven is not needed, just use a pan and touch the flesh side until it offers your preferred level of resistance.

    All veggies can be combined in boiling water, drained and braised in the same pot with the ingredients specified here. Butter amount can be reduced.

    You will save a lot of time and dishwashing.

    Overall, it tastes ok. Not really a combo you'll ever see again.

  2. I agree that Keller's preparations tend to be overly complex, but we don't do his recipes for a quick meal, we enjoy going through the steps, the results may between his dishes and others may be negligible depending on your tastes, but we always learn a thing or two.