Duck is one of my favorite meats to eat. I love the combination of tender meat with rich, creamy fat. In this recipe I pair it with some grilled asparagus and a blackberry-port pudding made from an agar fluid gel.
Until recently I always pan fried my duck, which worked well, but lately I've started making sous vide duck. I first tried to sous vide a duck breast because I had one frozen in my freezer that I wanted for dinner and I didn't have time to thaw it out. I knew that it would thaw much more quickly in the sous vide machine so I decided to give it a shot. It ended up working great and I cook almost all of my duck sous vide now.
I use a few unusual garnishes with this dish since I was growing them in my garden but feel free to use the more common versions, or any garnish of your choosing.
If you are cooking a bird that you normally would eat at a temperature besides well-done you don't necessarily have to pasteurize it. If you would traditionally feel comfortable eating it at a lower temperature, then you just need to heat it through to the temperature you prefer. Of course, with sous vide you can still pasteurize it at any temperature above 130°F (54.4°C) and that's usually what I do to be on the safe side.
For most high quality duck breast, I normally cook them just enough to heat them through and pasteurize them at a medium-rare temperature. This usually takes 2 to 3 hours for temperatures from 129°F to 135°F (53.8°C to 57.2°C). I tend to use 131°F (55°C) when I cook it.
A great way to thicken a sauce is to turn it into a fluid gel using agar. It helps thicken and bulk up the sauce, making it stick to the duck better while coating your tongue. Agar fluid gels are easy to make, just combine a ratio of 0.5% to 2.0% agar with your sauce and it will result in a fluid gel ranging from runny to pudding-like.
To create the fluid gel pudding, combine your sauce with the amount of agar you would like to use. Blend it in with an immersion blender and then bring it to a boil. Let simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Then pour the agar mixture into a mold or a rectangular container and let it completely set. Once it is set, cube the gel and puree it with a standing or immersion blender.
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Because they use modernist ingredients, these amounts for this component are given in metric by weight. Learn more about how to measure modernist ingredients in this article.
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Preheat a water bath to 131°F (55°C).
Mix together the spices in a bowl. Salt and pepper the duck breast then coat it with the spices. Place the duck breast in a sous vide bag then seal. Cook the duck for 2 to 3 hours. For more information on the cooking times you can read my detailed article which addresses why is there a range in sous vide cooking times.
Combine the blackberries and port then puree well with a standing or immersion blender. Strain the seeds out of the puree using a coarse strainer. Blend in the agar.
Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring occasionally. Let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Pour the blackberry mixture into a container and let it set completely. Once set, puree it well with an immersion or standing blender, adding water or port until it reaches the desired consistency.
The blackberry-port pudding can be made several hours ahead of time.
Heat a grill to high heat.
Toss the asparagus with the canola oil, salt, and pepper. Place on the grill and cook, turning once or twice, until softened. Remove from the heat. Squeeze the lemon over the asparagus.
Remove the sous vided duck from the sous vide bag and pat dry. Lightly salt the outside of the duck breast then quickly sear it until the outside has browned and the fat has begun to render. Cut the duck into slices.
Place a spoonful or two of the blackberry-port pudding on a plate or bowl. Lay a few slices of the sous vide duck breast on top with some asparagus spears. Sprinkle some lemon thyme leaves and Greek basil over the top. Add a few blackberries and nasturtium flowers around the sides. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt then serve.
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