Duck Breast with Buckwheat Pilaf

Serves 6

For the Spice Rub:

  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon allspice berries
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon Madras curry powder

For the Duck:

  • 3 duck breasts (magret; 1 pound each)
  • 2 tablespoons duck fat or
  • Clarified Butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ cup port wine
  • 1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • Buckwheat Pilaf (recipe follows)

For the Pilaf:

  • About 30 strands uncooked angel-hair pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1½ cups whole buckwheat groats (preferably untoasted)
  • 3 cups Chicken Stock (page 262, or low sodium canned)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Prepare the spice rub: Combine the cumin, allspice, fennel, coriander, cloves, cardamom, star anise, and bay leaves in a small skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, then grind it in a clean coffee or spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Add the turmeric and curry powder and mix well.
  2. Season the duck breasts: Score the skin in a crisscross pattern, cutting through the fat but stopping short of the meat. Coat the skin with the spice mixture and rub it well. Wrap the duck breasts in plastic and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Buckwheat pilaf: Break the pasta into small pieces. Toast the broken pasta in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned, about 7 minutes; set aside. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the buckwheat and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. (If using toasted buckwheat groats, simply continue without browning the groats.) Add the stock and pasta, and simmer, uncovered, until most of the liquid is absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat. fold in the parsley and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve (or reserve in a warm place until ready to serve).
  4. Cook the duck: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Allow the duck to come to room temperature before cooking. Heat the duck fat in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the duck breasts without crowding. Add the breasts, skin side down, and cook over low heat until the skin is deep amber, about 20 minutes, pouring off any accumulated fat from time to time.
  5. Finish and serve: Once the duck is browned, season the breasts with salt and pepper, pour off any fat from the pan, and place it in the oven to roast, about 7 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer the duck to a cutting board to rest.
  6. Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat. Add the port and simmer until reduced by two-thirds, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
  7. To serve, spoon equal portions of warm pilaf onto each of six warm dinner plates. Cut the duck breasts into ½-inch-thick slices and arrange them on top of the pilaf. Spoon a little sauce over the duck and serve.

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