DUCK MAGRET PEAR-TO-PEAR


Roasted duck magret, 4 ways of pear, celeriac




Magret refers to the meager breast of a fat duck
The magret is the duck breast, but not any breast, or rather not any duck. This refers exclusively to the breast of a male duck raised for its foie gras. Interesting to note that although the magret is raised for his foie gras (literally "fat liver"), the magret meat itself is very lean: in fact, magret comes from “maigre”, which means meager, lean in French...

Once a pig food that has become a top end cut
Although it is now a classic of French cuisine, ranked in the top 10 of the dishes preferred by French people (this is my case), it is in fact very recent. Till the 50’s, the breasts of those force-fed ducks were pitched, yes pitched or given to the pigs!!! André Daguin, a Michelin starred chef established in the South West of France is the one who rehabilitated the magret by proposing it in his restaurant, served like a steak, medium rare. Except that the secret of cooking a good magret is not to sear it like a steak. The magret is the breast of a male duck raised to produce a fat liver, aka foie gras. Therefore, a thick layer of fat accumulated between the skin and the meat, much thicker than on a "normal" duck breast. 
Although it is now a classic of French cuisine, ranked in the top 10 of the dishes preferred by French people (this is my case), it is in fact very recent. Till the 50’s, the breasts of those force-fed ducks were pitched, yes pitched or given to the pigs!!! André Daguin, a Michelin starred chef established in the South West of France is the one who rehabilitated the magret by proposing it in his restaurant, served like a steak, medium rare. Except that the secret of cooking a good magret is not to sear it like a steak. The magret is the breast of a male duck raised to produce a fat liver, aka foie gras. Therefore, a thick layer of fat accumulated between the skin and the meat, much thicker than on a "normal" duck breast.

The French chefs’ specific way to sear a magret
This is why it requires a specific method of cooking, the objective of which is to render the fat between the skin and the meat:
·       The first thing to do is to score the skin (diamond shape or square shape, depending on how you want to cut your magret afterwards / from 5 to 10 mm to optimize the rendering) and to salt the magret on both sides, rubbing more particularly the skin side so that the salt penetrates in the scores.
·       The second thing is to sear the magret, on its skin side, over low burner (#3) for around 10/12 minutes, till the skin takes a nice golden color or, in fact, a couple of minutes after the magret doesn't stick at all on your (cast iron) pan. Reversely, the thing not to do is to sear it at high temperature: you will burn the skin before you are able to eliminate enough fat. Same thing with the sous-vide methods that do not allow to eliminate the fat. Either (a) you sear the magret at high temperature for a short time afterwards, and you will not eliminate the fat, or (b) you sear it for a longer time and you burn the skin, or (c) you sear it at a lower temperature and for a longer time... and you overcook the magret.
·       When the skin is colored the way you want it, you flip the magret and cook it on the meat side for a couple of minutes, burner off.
·       Then, specially if you have a big and thick magret, you can put the magret in an oven dish, on the skin side, in an 350F preheated oven and roast it for around 5 minutes.
·       Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes on the grid, before cutting it, and recuperating the juice that you will incorporate in your sauce

Duck magret pear-to-pear

Here, I decided to associate the magret with beautiful Anjou pears. Do you notice how those share the same beautiful Bordeaux color and round and generous shape? And to bring some earthiness to the pear sweetness, I added some celeriac slices…





Level of difficulty
Cost
Preparation
Resting
Cooking
n
$$
~30 minutes
-
~90 minutes


Ingredients - 2 servings

§  1 duck magret (around 14 oz)
§  3 Anjou pears not to ripe
§  1 glass of Alsace’s Gewurztraminer
§  1 vanilla bean or vanilla extract
§  A dozen of saffron pistils
§  1 tbsp of sugar
§  1 small celeriac, peeled, sliced (4 slices in the widest part), and trims cut in pieces
§  1/4 red onion, thinly chopped
§  1 tbsp of duck fat
§  2 tbsp of cider vinegar
§  1 tbsp of butter
§  Salt and pepper or Espelette
§  Optional: a few blueberries and raspberries for decoration

Instructions

1.     Prepare the pears:
§  Take one pear, peel it but keep it whole with its stem, put it in jam-type jar adapted to its size. Add the sugar, the vanilla and the saffron to the wine, and pour this mixture in the jar, to fully cover the pear. Cook it in a bain-marie (i.e. in a pan of water) for around 1 hour
§  Take the second pear. Don’t peel it. Cut it length-wise in 3 parts: the central part with the seeds and 2 small “halves”. Make 4 thin slices out of the small halves, put them on a parchment paper with olive oil and bake them in a 300F oven for round 1 hour. Keep the trims
§  Take the third pear. Don’t peel it. Cut it length-wise in 3 parts: the central part with the seeds and 2 small “halves”. Reserve the halves and the trims.
2.     Prepare the magret:
§  Trim the magret ends and remove the parts with nerves. Generally, there is also a thin piece of meat that is “loose”. Remove it too and keep preciously all those trims for the sauce
§  With a sharp knife, score the skin and the fat of the magret, in a criss-cross pattern, but be careful not to cut the meat itself
3.     Put the magret in a big enough frying pan (you will add the pears and the celeriac later on), on its skin side and cook it slowly at low-medium temperature (burner on 3). The objective is to eliminate the fat and to grill the skin. Would you sear it at a too high temperature, you would eventually grill (or burn) the skin, but most the fat under the skin would remain . After a few minutes, as the magret starts rendering fat, place the two small “halves” of the third pear, on the pulp side, in the pan and let them simmer gently with the magret.
4.     Add the 2 slices of celeriac and cook them in the fat too
5.     Baste regularly the magret with its fat
6.     After around 15 minutes, take the magret away and reserve it on a grid, and continue cooking, for around another 15 minutes, the pear halves, always on the pulp side, and the celeriac slices, flipping them regularly.
7.     Prepare the sauce:
§  Around 15 minutes before plating, while the pear chips are baking, while the whole pear is poaching in the flavored wine, while the pear halves and the celeriac slices are gently roasting in the duck fat, take a sauce pan, heat the duck fat table spoon and add the duck trims. Sauté them and deglazed with the vinegar.
§  Add the celeriac and the pear trims cut in small pieces. Cover with water, put to boil and let reduce.
§  At this time, you should be at the end of the 1-hour poaching time of the whole pear. Take the poached pear out of the jar, pour the vanilla/saffron flavored poaching wine in the pan with the pear trims, put back to boil long enough to evaporate the alcohol and let reduce, crushing the pear trims with a fork to extract all the pear flavors. Replace the whole pear in the jar and the jar in the bain-marie pan, out of the burner, to keep it warm.
§  When the sauce has reduced sufficiently and reached a syrupy texture, take the poached pear out of the jar, cut it in three parts: the central part with the seeds and 2 small “halves”. Reserve the small “halves” and crush the central part in the pear and wine sauce. Mix the sauce in a blender, strain it and adjust the seasoning.
§  Add the butter and gently whisk it with the sauce. Reserve
8.     Around 5 minutes before plating, place the magret, skin side up, in the oven with pear chips. Set the oven in broil mode at 450F, and let the magret and the pear chips grill for 3 to 5 minutes.
9.     Serve half of the magret with one poached pear half, one roasted pear half, one pear chip, two roasted celeriac slices and the pear sauce reduction. Add a few blueberries and raspberries for decoration... plus theu go well with the Alsace's Gewurztraminer served with the dish...





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