Duck Duck Syrah
Crispy Skinned Duck Breast with Winter Squash Purée and Winter Crudité
by Matt Niess | Chef de Cave
Featuring Liberty Duck and vegetables from the Estate Vineyard & Farm.
The days are short, the nights are chilly, the soil outside seems perpetually damp and hopefully there’s a fire roaring nearby. The winter season provides an opportunity to slow down, turn inward, and enjoy the simplicity of life. Taking the time to prepare, create, and experience a truly seasonal meal paired with the proper wine can be a remarkable way to do all this. Shucking pomegranates while listening to the rain fall, sharing a warm dinner that’s both hearty and bright with family and friends, all while sipping a robust red wine is one of my favorite ways to take advantage of the long nights. This dish celebrates the season with rich duck breast and sweet winter squash, but keeps the fun alive with zesty raw apples, pomegranate arils and blanched brassicas. At our estate vineyard we feel so fortunate to have such precious land also dedicated to the growing of fruits and vegetables (as well as grapes). Our winter garden can provide savoy cabbage, romanesco and cauliflower, but I encourage people to grow what works well for their particular backyard and learn to use that. While I have exact measurements here, please view this recipe (along with all of my recipes) as loose and open for experimentation. Precise ingredients and measurements can be the downfall of the home cook. For example, home grown garlic is more potent than store bought and a “medium” sized onion is subjective. Taste what you’re doing, listen to your intuition, try a substitute you have on hand. Cooking is not a test, you cannot fail, although you may have some, err…“learning opportunities.” But after all, you’re creating a dish to savor and be proud of, so please flex your creativity and make it your own.
I cherish a cool climate Syrah with winter fare. The upfront spice intermingled with a mélange of fruit, a vibrant backbone and satiating tannins are great accompaniments to much of what we find ourselves craving during the cooler months. The 2014 Radio-Coteau Harrison Grade Syrah has a great texture that complements this medium rare duck breast beautifully. The bright fruit of the wine’s entry cuts through the duck fat and the creamy winter squash. Use a deft hand when spicing this dish. Allow the savory and pepper characteristics of this Syrah, rather than the spice of the food, to play with the sweetness of the maple syrup and squash.
Cardamom Scented Butternut Squash Purée
- 2 lb. Butternut (or Acorn, Kabocha, Banana) squash, peeled and diced into 1 ½” cubes
- 3 cardamom pods, toasted
- 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- black pepper, freshly ground
Place cardamom pods in large saucepan. Place steamer basket in saucepan and fill with just enough water to the bottom of the basket. Add squash, cover and steam on high for approx. 15 min or until squash is tender when pierced with sharp knife. Using a food mill or potato ricer, process squash while still very warm into a bowl. Fold in ginger and butter with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve in double boiler to keep warm.
Balsamic and Maple Reduction
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- ½ c. maple syrup
- ¼ c. pomegranate juice
- ¼ c. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Whisk all ingredients except butter into a small saucepan. On medium heat gently simmer until sauce thickens and coats back of spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Reserve in squeeze bottle or covered in a double boiler.
- 1 crisp apple (Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Pink Pearl, Pippin, Fuji), peeled, diced into ¼” cubes and submerged in ice water acidulated w/ lemon juice
- 1 pomegranate, arils removed
- 3 small radishes, sliced
- ½ lb. brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli), roughly chopped to retain unique natural shape
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped crosswise
- 1 purple Kohlrabi, peeled and diced
Fill large pot with salted water (resembling the brininess of ocean water) and bring to boil. Blanch vegetables in salted water and shock in ice bath for 5 min. Strain vegetables and reserve until ready to assemble.
- 6 duck breasts, excess fat trimmed and ¼” deep crosshatch cut into skin
(Liberty Duck from Petaluma, CA featured in this recipe)
- 3 tbsp. high quality five-spice powder
1. Pat duck breasts dry. Season with salt to taste and sprinkle five-spice on both sides of duck breasts. In a hot skillet set over high heat: add duck skin side down, cook until fat renders and skin crisps, approx. 5 min. Flip over to skin side up and continue on low heat for approx. 4 minutes for med-rare. Remove from pan and reserve (keep warm).
2. Place reserved vegetables in now-empty pan with duck jus. On low heat bring vegetables to room temp and reserve until plating.
3. To serve, place dollops of squash puree on each plate. Slice duck breasts and fan over squash. Freely scatter vegetables, apple, pomegranate and radish slices around plate. Drizzle duck breast with reduction and any duck jus.
Recommended Wine Pairing: Radio-Coteau, 2014 ‘Harrison Grade’ Sonoma Coast Syrah