How do you do it? How is it possible to interweave a recipe about duck with the horrors of cancer? I’ve lost loved ones to the disease and nearly everyone has or will at some point. I was recently asked to join several other bloggers this week in an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer. My mind immediately went to two strong women who lost their battles; a coworker and a good friend. In 2006, my friend died from Leukemia, a form of blood cancer. She was 24 years old. Is her story even appropriate this week? There
is no such thing actually is a Leukemia Awareness Month but it gets no publicity. I think every story is worth telling, whether it’s breast cancer, lung cancer or leukemia.
Someone suggested I share one of her favorite recipes. My response was that she loved beef jerky and frozen pizzas covered in garlic powder (because real garlic made her hands smell). Food wasn’t really her thing. I doubt she ate duck. But she did love art and photography.
Yes, those are my legs peeking into some of the shots. But she’s clearly the star of these photos; the camera loved her. I preferred working behind the scenes (and just to be clear I didn’t take these photos of her.) I should also mention that in addition to being incredibly artistic, she was very funny.
She was an artist and I wanted to be just like her. She inspired me to be more creative. To make art. Only I was kind of a terrible artist. I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t paint, and her homemade jewelry always looked way better than mine. We took nude model drawing classes together and her sketches looked great while mine looked like drunk attempts at crude cartoons. But no matter what she was always encouraging. Little did either of us know that years later I’d discover cooking and that would become my art. I know she’d dig it. I’d certainly make her a pizza.
The cancer took her life within three years of the initial diagnosis. It was difficult to watch, especially because there was a brief period of remission at the halfway point where it looked like everything was going to be ok after all.
Thanks, Ann, for being a good friend and for inspiring me to create art. I couldn’t always be the friend you needed, but I did the best I could and I know you knew that.
The recipe I’m sharing today for duck with red wine mushroom sauce and lentils isn’t as random as it sounds. While researching ingredients that help prevent cancer my results included (but were not limited to) shallots, mushrooms, lentils, kale and red wine (please check out the links for more details on health benefits). When I saw those ingredients I immediately wanted to pair them with a nice, juicy steak. But since red meat has been linked to cancer that would be very counter-intuitive. After contemplating my options I settled on duck. It has some of the same meaty qualities as steak and it’s less boring than chicken. Plus, I’ve never shared a duck recipe on the blog. By all means, swap out the duck for pork tenderloin, chicken breasts or even steak when preparing this.
- 1/2 cup French lentils
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 garlic clove, whole
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 bunch of kale, inner stem removed and ripped into smaller pieces
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 large or 2 small duck breasts
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- Pick through the lentils and wash thoroughly.
- Place in a saucepan with stock, shallot, garlic and thyme. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until lentils are soft but still toothsome. Drain excess liquid. Remove garlic and stem from thyme.
- In a large pan, saute the shallots and garlic over medium-low heat until tender. Add the kale and water. Stir periodically until the greens have cooked down. This can be reheated right before serving the meal.
- Score the fat on top of the duck breast diagonally in both directions. Make sure to cut all the way through the fat without cutting into the meat. This will help the fat render properly. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Heat a saute pan over medium heat for several minutes and then place the duck in the pan, fat-side down.
- Let the fat render over medium heat for several minutes (5-10 depending on the size) until it's dark brown and crispy. Drain off some of the duck fat periodically so the meat isn't swimming in fat (save in the fridge for later use).
- Flip the breast and allow it to cook on the opposite side for a few minutes. You're aiming for a medium rare breast with crispy (not chewy) fat. I like to keep a thermometer on hand. Remove from the heat when the center is around 125 degrees (it will continue to cook). Allow the meat to rest for at least 5 minutes.
- While the duck is resting, prepare the pan sauce. Drain any remaining fat from the pan and then deglaze with red wine. Use a spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom and incorporate them. Once the wine is almost cooked away, add the shallots and a sprinkle of salt. Allow them to cook for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Brown the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes and then add the chicken stock.
- Allow the stock to reduce significantly until it's a thin sauce consistency. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter immediately.
- Slice duck on the bias into thin strips. (If you accidentally undercook the meat you can briefly stick it in a 375 degree F oven. Be very careful not to overcook in this scenario.)
- Fan the duck over the lentils and top with the mushroom sauce. Serve with kale.
Duck is considered a fatty bird but the meat itself is very lean, especially if you render off most of the fat. You can slice away the layer of fat on the breast before cooking if you prefer a lighter meal. Be sure to add a bit of oil to the pan before sauteing.
If at all possible, use homemade chicken stock in the lentils and pan sauce. It tastes much better and is less processed. If making homemade stock seems daunting, please email me. I will personally guide you through the process!
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