Duck Breast with Creamy Polenta, Green Olives and Raisins

We knew we wanted to make duck. What else? I flipped through a few cookbooks and poked around online until we found what suited the evening best: Breast of Pekin Duck With Creamy Polenta, Olives, Raisins, and Dried Tomatoes from the D’Artagnan cookbook. I adapted it — not so much as far as the ingredients, but rather for the order in which you put them together. I tried to make it easier for the home cook. My adaptations, after the jump.

The first thing you should always do — and I’m guilty of blowing this off, too — is get all your ingredients out. This is called mise en place — everything in its place — in French and is super important if you want to be successful in a complicated dish such as this one.

The first step is to plump up your raisins in a little port. I didn’t have any tawny port, so I used ruby.

The reason this dish is so much easier than it could be is because of the wonderful inventory over at Old World Market. They carry this duck and veal demi glace, which is great for making sauces rich and delicious:

The sauce also needs some red wine:

And garlic and rosemary:

So once that’s going, you can work on the other parts of the dish. Go ahead and sear off your duck, if you wish. First, score the skin so the fat renders in the pan and the skin will get nice and crisp:

Sear it skin side down. I love cast iron for this:

Then flip it over. See how nice!

Now start getting your caponata ready. Dice and saute the eggplant.

After that it can sit until you’re almost ready to serve. Just have the other parts for the caponata at the ready, so they can all heat up together:

Now you’re ready to make your polenta. Milk is in the pan:

Just bring it to a boil, then add polenta and stir, stir, stir:

Put the duck back in the oven to warm up.

And add your raisins, orange and tomatoes to your eggplant to warm up in the pan. Then plate your dish.

Find a nice red wine —

— and eat!

This is one for the books, folks. It’ll really impress the guests. I hope you make it!

Breast of Pekin Duck With Creamy Polenta, Olives, Raisins, and Dried Tomatoes

Recipe Serves 4

The blend of golden raisins, green olives, dried tomatoes, and small roasted onions, spiked with orange zest in this dish, recalls medieval flavors and Sicilian caponata. The polenta is irresistibly creamy, while rosemary-infused Chianti is reduced to a lush sauce. Serve with sautéed Swiss chard and a Chianti wine.

1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon tawny port
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cups Chianti wine
1 1/2 cups duck & veal demi-glace
2 large sprigs rosemary + small sprigs rosemary, to garnish
1 small eggplant (about 3/4 pound) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice Zest of 1 orange, minced
1/2 cup pitted and sliced imported green olives
1/3 cup julienned oven-dried or sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
2 whole Pekin duck breasts, excess fat removed, skin and fat scored diagonally scored into small squares
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup polenta
1/4 cup grated imported Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Combine raisins with port in a small bowl and set aside. (If raisins are very dry, heat mixture briefly in a microwave oven or over medium-low heat to soften.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roast garlic in the oven about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and combine with Chianti, demi-glace, and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce by two-thirds to sauce consistency. Use a slotted spoon to remove the garlic, season to taste, and keep warm.

Season both sides of duck with salt and pepper. Pour about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into a large skillet, and heat over medium heat until hot. Place duck breasts, skin side down, in pan and cook until fat is rendered, 8 to 9 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve. Duck may be prepared a couple of hours ahead to this point.

Meanwhile, season eggplant with salt and pepper, and toss with another tablespoon or 2 of the olive oil. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, and cook until lightly brown on all sides, and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes, turning often. Add orange zest, raisins and port, olives, tomatoes, and onions, and heat over medium-low heat until just warmed through. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour milk into a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add polenta in a slow stream, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Continue cooking and stirring until smooth and soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of the butter, season with salt and pepper to taste, cover, and keep warm.

Finish duck breasts in 350 degree oven until medium-rare, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how cool they are before placing in oven. Remove and let stand for at least 5 minutes.

Just before serving, whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter into the demi-glace sauce.

To serve: spoon about 1/2 cup of the polenta into a shallow bowl or plate. Cut duck breasts into 2 cutlets, then crosswise into thin slices. Fan 1 breast across the front of each plates. Top with olive-raisin-tomato mixture at top of fan, and ladle on sauce. Add a rosemary sprig before serving.

Adapted from Chef Ris Lacoste and from the D’Artagnan’s Glorious Game Cookbook by Ariane Daguin, George Faison, and Joanna Pruess.

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