This is probably more of a fall or winter recipe, rather than a sunny spring one. But, I was in the mood for duck breast, and duck goes well with fruit. A lot of fruits like orange and cherry are a bit overdone, so I went with apples instead, but cooked them in butter and orange juice for a least a nod to à l’orange. I wanted a rich, rich sauce to be able to hold up to the duck, so I used beef and mushroom stocks with a couple kicks. Wrapped in crepes with some exotic mushrooms and feta, and the richness was definitely on target, and it was tasty.
Timing was tricky in this dish. Crepe batter should sit for 15-30 minutes to blend. The apples would take 30 minutes or so in the oven to finish. The duck would be pan-seared, then finished in the oven as well, and meanwhile, I wanted my stock to reduce a bit. So, I had to keep two or three things going at once to have everything ready for plating at the end.
Starting with the crepe batter — a couple eggs, some flour, and enough milk to make a nice, thin-stream batter, then in the fridge.
Next, the dried mushrooms went into a pot of boiling water, which was then removed from the heat as the mushrooms steeped for 10 minutes or so.
Peeling and cutting out the cores of the apples. I used Golden Delicious. I don’t know my apples as well as I should, but I didn’t want the sourness of a Granny Smith, and I wanted something different from the ubiquitous Red. The Goldens just looked good at the store.
Apples are sweet, as is the orange juice I’ll be cooking these in, but this should be a savory dish. Nothing wrong with elements of sweetness, but I didn’t want to use typical apple ingredients like cinnamon or brown sugar. So, I sautéed the apples in butter first, and used kosher salt and cracked black pepper before adding the orange juice. I also threw in a warmed shot of bourbon and flambéed for some extra earthiness, but the flames were completely obliterated by Christey’s flashes/strobes and we couldn’t get a good shot. Then, into a 350 degree oven until the slices were cooked through (about 15 more minutes).
The crepe batter was still chilling, but the mushrooms were done, so I strained them, keeping the mushroom water, chopped them, then sautéed them in butter with some chopped shallots.
While those cooked, I started the sauce. Beef stock, some of the leftover mushroom water, and simmer gently to reduce by about half.
Crepe batter is done, meanwhile. I wanted smaller crepes, so I lightly sprayed my heated 8-inch pan with cooking spray, and spread the batter thinly on the bottom.
I believe it was Alton Brown who retold the story that “The first crepe is always for the dog!”. The first crepe usually is a warm-up for the cook, the pan, and the amount of oil. Later crepes are always prettier.
After all this prep, it’s time for the duck breasts. Some kosher salt and pepper, score through the skin, but not into the meat, and into a medium-high pan with a bit of olive oil — as the skin crisps, the duck fat will render out into the pan and help cook the meat.
The apples were done — tender on the inside and finished. Just in time, because the duck skin was crispy, so it was time to flip them, and put them in the oven. I was shooting for medium. Any more well done and duck breast gets a little tough. So, I’d test after 10 minutes or so.
The sauce was reduced at this point, so I added some homemade crème fraîche (which is very easy to do — I got the idea through tastespotting.com with the recipe here: http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/recipes/sauce_fraiche.html ). I also added a tablespoon of my stash of homemade demi-glace — a three day epic that won’t be repeated here. But, the demi adds an unbelievable layer of richness underneath everything else. So, all stirred together and simmered just a bit more until ready.
Okay, duck breasts are ready. I let them rest for five minutes or so while I set up my area to assemble the crepes.
Duck breast sliced on a bias:
Lay down a crepe, alternate slices of duck with slices of apple
Top with the mushroom/shallot mixture
Sprinkle with feta
Fold, almost like an enchilada
Then, repeat, plate, and drizzle sauce around and over. Mmmmmmm….duck.