Wednesday 21 April 2010

Recipe: Duck Breast with Lentils

A re-working of a Paula Wolfert recipe from about forty years ago, the original version used an entire jointed duck, the pieces of which were braised in liquid over a couple of hours - at some times with the associated lentils, and at others on their own. The duck in question must have been of a serious age, as the ducklings generally available these days won't stand up to such treatment (or if they do stand up to it, they certainly don't benefit from it, and the end result is tough as old boots...and certainly won't repay the effort of all that time hovering over the stove).

This version, instead, combines Wolfert's delicious lentil treatment with a sliced duck breast, which has been lightly grilled, in a dressing of garlic, thyme and bay. The quantities given here for the lentils are probably much more than needed for one dinner - but the leftovers keep and re-heat well...and are excellent either as the base for a poached egg, as a starter, or else as the accompaniment to something like roast pork.

I've included all the 'duck stuff' in this recipe, on the assumption that you'll have taken the duck breast from a bird which you've boned and cut up, and therefore will have to-hand duck fat and duck stock; if not, then substitute a mixture of butter and oil for the duck fat, and use any decent stock in place of duck stock.

For two:

Ingredients: 1 or 2 Duck Breasts (depending upon the size of the bird and the appetite of the diners); 1 tbs Olive Oil; 1 large Garlic clove, minced; half a tsp dried Thyme; 1 large dried Bay leaf, crumbled; salt & pepper, to taste.
250g Lentils (soaked overnight, if using that sort; personally, I never use the pre-soaked ones these days) ; half a medium Onion; 1 small stick of Celery; 1 medium Carrot, peeled; 2 tbs Duck fat; 1 cup White Wine; 2 cups Water; 2 tbs Tomato paste.

1. Smear the Duck Breast(s) evenly with Oil, Garlic, Thyme, Bay leaf and seasonings. Put to one side, while you cook the Lentils.
2. Melt the Duck fat in a pan, and in it sauté the finely diced vegetables for ten minutes or so, stirring frequently, until they have obviously collapsed.
3. Add the Wine and Water, along with the Tomato Concentrate, and stir well to mix everything together. Add the Lentils; stir again, then bring the mixture to the boil, and then cook at a high simmer until done, which should take 35-40 minutes. When cooked, check and adjust the seasoning. Set aside and keep warm until you're ready to serve.
4. Under a hot grill - at a distance of about three inches - cook the breast(s), about six minutes with the fat-side up, and a further four minutes after you've turned them over. Leave them to rest afterwards for two minutes, to allow the flesh to firm up.
5. Slice the breast(s) finely, and serve along with the Lentils on heated plates.

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