New Orleans-style duck in time for Mardi Gras

By SARA MOULTON The Associated Press

With Mardi Gras looming, I thought it might be fun to cook up some New Orleans-styled goodies featuring duck, andouille sausage and Creole seasoning. These rich ingredients are typical of the fare from this town that knows how to party — an instinct that goes into overdrive during Mardi Gras.
And in this recipe, I’ve figured out a couple ways for us to have our cake and eat it, too. It delivers big flavor without the usual complement of fat and calories.
We start with the star of this show, the breast of duck, a well-known fount of flavor that — depending on how you cook it — doesn’t have to be terribly heavy. I do recommend that you saute the breast with the skin on; that’s how to maximize its deliciousness and moistness.
But you can remove and discard the skin — along with most of the serious fat and calories — afterward. Duck fat is not bad fat. Some of it is saturated, but a large percentage of it is mono- and poly-unsaturated, with the same properties, incredibly enough, as olive oil.
The duck and its sauce are brightened with homemade Creole seasoning, which has at least as much flavor, and significantly less salt, than many store-bought versions.
My version is modeled on the spice mixes of two of New Orleans’s greatest chefs — Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.
The tomato-based sauce is flavored not only with my Creole spice mix, but with Louisiana’s holy trinity of vegetables: onion, celery and bell pepper.
By the way, if duck has always struck you as gamey, you haven’t tried Peking (also known as Long Island) duck breast, the kind employed in this recipe. I serve duck breast once a week at home and the family loves it. It’s so quick and easy to prepare that I put it in the same category as steak. As a matter of fact, duck breasts pair up nicely with any of the sauces you’d use with steak.
Meanwhile, back to Mardi Gras. Ladies and gents, let the good times roll!
SPICY SAUTEED CREOLE DUCK BREASTS
Start to finish: 1½ hours
(40 minutes active)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 ounces andouille sausage, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 Tbsp. plus ½ teaspoon Creole seasoning (purchased or use the recipe below), divided
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup chopped or crushed canned tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
2 whole Peking duck breasts (4 halves, about 2 to 2½ pounds)
In a medium saucepan over medium, heat oil. Add sausage and cook, stirring, until browned, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a bowl, then return pan to the heat and add onion, bell pepper and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 to 1½ teaspoon of Creole spice mix (or more if you want a very spicy sauce) and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add chicken broth and tomatoes, then bring the mixture to a boil and simmer until much of the liquid has reduced, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
While the sauce is simmering, using a very sharp knife, lightly score the skin on each duck breast half in a crisscross pattern, cutting well into but not entirely through the meat. Pat breasts dry and sprinkle them on both sides with the remaining 2 teaspoons Creole spice mix, making sure that the mix gets into the cracks of the scored skin. Let stand for 15 minutes.
In a large cold skillet, place duck breasts, skin side down. Turn heat to medium-low and cook until the skin looks very crispy, about 12 minutes. Do not pour off the fat; liquid fat in the pan helps to render out fat in the skin.
When the duck skin is crisp, transfer breasts to a plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan. Return duck to the skillet, skin side up, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer duck to a clean plate, skin side up.
Cover loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.
Pour off any remaining fat in the skillet. Add sauce and browned sausage to the skillet and bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Add any juices that have collected on the plate the duck breasts are on.
Remove and discard the ski, if desired (separating it by slicing off the skin with a paring knife). Thinly slice the duck and arrange it on 6 serving plates. Spoon some of the sauce over each portion.
Servings: 6
Nutrition information per serving: 340 calories; 110 calories from fat (32 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (3.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 255 mg cholesterol; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 50 g protein; 670 mg sodium.
CREOLE SEASONING
Start to finish: 5 minutes
1 Tbsp. plus 1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. onion powder
1½ tsp. cayenne
1½ tsp. dried oregano
1½ tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Makes about 1/3 cup
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”

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