Saturday, February 14, 2015

Recipe: Korean-style Seared Duck Breast

Pan-seared duck breast rubbed with sea salt, black pepper and Hanguk Saffron— thinly sliced and served with kimchee!
Hanguk Saffron the Asian spice of life
There’s dak (duck) bulgogi, then there’s ori (duck) bulgogi. To avoid any culinary confusion... I made DUCK bulgogi. Pan-searing a duck breast filet is not hard to do at all, but there are some general guidelines to follow. Duck is poultry, just as chicken and turkey are, but the flesh is more comparable to a red meat animal. It’s cooked as beef or pork would be. Unlike red meat, duck is lower in saturated fats. Most of the ducks fat is in the skin, were as it’s marbled throughout a good cut of red meat. A younger duck will be more tender and flavorful than an older one.

Since duck is very fatty the first objective to making a moist, crisp breast is to render most of the fat and moisture from the skin before completely cooking it. Instead of marinating the best way to flavor this dish is to dry-rub with seasoning; I use my Hanguk Saffron, a powdered seasoning made from dehydrated kimchee (inset); in this recipe we’ll estimate the flavor with mixture of dry spices. If you have frozen duck breasts, let them thaw in the fridge for two or three days ahead of cooking. Never let it thaw out on the counter, it will toughen the meat. Wash duck breast and pat dry. One way to remove moisture (after washing) is to let it sit skin-side-up in the refrigerator for two to three hours before cooking. Estimated cooking time for this recipe is about 18-20 minutes.

You’ll need:
  • 2 duck breasts with skin, 9 to 10 oz each
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • large cast iron skillet or a thick-bottom non-stick pan
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Dry-rub Mix
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Korean chili powder, fine grade
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
Dry-rub mix and cooking low and slow is the way to go for this dish.
Mix dry-rub spices in a small bowl, set aside. With a sharp knife, score the skin-side of both duck breasts making shallow diamond cuts; avoid cutting into the flesh. Salt liberally on both sides, then sprinkle with pepper. Sprinkle half the amount of the dry-rub mix on the meat side of both breasts. Heat a large cast iron skillet on a low flame and place the breasts in skin-side down. Allow to sear low-and-slow for four minutes, then lift to check that the skin is evenly crisping-up. Continue to sear for another 5 minutes and reposition in the pan to ensure that the skin evenly browns. You can use a spatter screen if it gets messy but do not cover with a lid.

The objective is to slowly remove the fat and moisture from the skin my searing on low heat. Starting with a medium or high flame would seal the fat in the skin, making the meat greasy. This process will release a good amount of fat, drain from the pan as needed. Duck fat is a good fat which is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You can freeze and save the fat for making confit or refine it to use as a cooking fat instead of lard.

Flip breasts over and sear the meat side for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches about 122°F, the flesh feels as firm as the tip of your nose when you press on it. Raise flame to medium heat, flip over skin-side down and sear for two more minutes. Is it done? Check by lancing the center of the best, if liquid runs clear, remove from heat and let it rest for 6 minutes before serving. The skin should be crisp and the meat should be firm but not over-cooked. To serve, cut diagonally against the grain of the meat and glaze each slice with sweet soy sauce and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before plating.

And there you have it, a Korean spiced duck breast, pan-seared to perfection.

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