Duck is one my favorite proteins to work with. It is so versatile. Whether it’s used to confit, sear, or cure into prosciutto, it all tantalizes my palate. This dish has it all: fattiness from the duck fat, acid from the vinegar and tomatoes, and a splash of citrus from the orange. Did I mention it is topped with fresh mozzarella and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano? The “woods” you take a duck from for a dish like this may be flooded, but it’s still “forest to fork” if you ask me! Quack, quack!
- Serves 4
- Prep time: 4 hours
- Cook time: 20 minutes plus rest
- Juice and zest of one large orange
- 1/2-cup quality balsamic vinegar
- 2 cloves finely-chopped garlic
- 1/8-teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2-teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2-teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 tablespoon quality extra-virgin olive oil
Orange balsamic vinaigrette
- Juice and zest of one large orange
- 1/4-cup quality balsamic vinegar
- 3/4-cup quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 heirloom tomatoes, finely diced and locally grown if possible (Roma tomatoes work as well)
- 1/2-cup finely-diced red onion
- 4 leaves fresh-chopped basil
- 2 8-ounce skin-on duck breasts (if they’re like mine, beware of bird shot)
- 1 tablespoon duck fat (cook duck with duck fat, who would have thought)
- Kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to season
- 4 3/4-inch slices of fresh Italian loaf
- 1 clove fresh garlic
- 1 ball freshly-sliced mozzarella cheese (find a local cheese farmer or make your own, if possible—you will not regret it)
- Fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (known as the undisputed “King of Cheeses”)
- Extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
Score the duck breast by making long “x” or cross-hatch incisions on the fatty side of the duck. Pierce only the fat and not the meat.* Place duck breasts and all marinade ingredients in a zip-top bag or non-reactive container. Let marinate for a minimum of four hours, though overnight is better.
Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette by zesting and juicing the orange into a medium bowl. Next, add the balsamic vinegar then slowly drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil, constantly whisking to emulsify (fancy word, meaning “blend thoroughly”). Set aside until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the finely-diced tomato, red onion, fresh-chopped basil, salt, and pepper. Brush the garlic clove directly on both sides of the bread slices. Trust me, this adds awesome flavor. On one side of the bread, drizzle with olive oil and place slices directly on the oven rack for two minutes. Remove. The bread should have little to no color, but have a crustier texture. Set aside.
Place a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Take duck breasts out of marinade, pat dry, and season with kosher salt and pepper. While the pan is heating, allow the duck to come to room temperature. Add the duck fat to the pan followed by the duck breasts, skin-side down, to the pan. Allow the fat on the breasts to render roughly 5 to 7 minutes or until skin is deep golden-brown and crispy. Crank the heat to medium-high, flip the breasts, and cook for another 2 minutes. At this point, the duck is rare, but remember it is going back in the oven to finish.
Hit the breasts with a touch more salt and pepper and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain into 1/4-inch pieces. Lay two pieces on each slice of bread. Top each with a slices of fresh “mozz” and a dollop the bruschetta topping. Do not over-top your duck. Remember, the goal is to enhance the flavor, not overpower. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and lay on a baking sheet to bake in the oven. Bake for roughly 5 to 8 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness and when the cheese is fully melted.
Remove from the oven and top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a light drizzle of the orange balsamic vinaigrette. Let cool slightly, plate, and devour. Hunt, cook, share, enjoy, and, as always, keep Cookin’ in Camo!
*Scoring the fat allows it to render more efficiently. We have all heard duck people say, “Duck is greasy.” This is from improper preparation. This process alleviates the problem.
Editor’s note: This recipe is the fourth in a series of several provided by Tyler Viars, a dedicated “forest to fork” hunter and professional chef. Click here to read last week’s recipe, trout tacos with avocado-yogurt sauce and pickled red onions.
Images courtesy Tina Marie Photography