Warm Duck Breast and Roasted Pear Salad, with Ginger-Braised Cabbage
This was my non-entry in Paper Chef #11, Favorite Fall Foods. (Since I was judging the event I wasn't eligible to compete, but I didn't want to miss the fun.)
My first thought when I started to work on this month's ingredient list for the Paper Chef competition was that sliced duck breast would go well with an old Fall favorite in my kitchen: braised cabbage with apples,and I thought that the cabbage would work with the addition of someginger. Also, since it's Fall, roasting some bosc pears seemed obvious, for that luscious golden glow they take on, andgrilling the duck breast seemed to be the way to go. (As it turned out, there was a raging storm all day the day I made this, and though I usually don't let weather keep me from the grill, I ended upbroiling the breasts in the oven since my indoor grill is out of commission right now, waiting for a part.)
Duck breast, roasted pears, ginger-braised cabbage...that's a good start, but what to do with the nut butter? I didn't want to transform the whole thing into some sort of off-beat Pad Thai, since ginger is definitely not part of the Pad Thai tradition, nor are pears. Then the idea came to me to serve the duck and pear as a warm salad, over a bed of the gingery cabbage and apples, also warm, with a nut butter-based dressing. For some reason cashews seemed to be the right nut so I started experimenting with a cashew butter vinaigrette. It worked, after a little fussing.
So, there it is: a warm salad of sliced duck breast with roasted pears, served on a bed of ginger-braised cabbage, apples and onions, with a cashew butter vinaigrette. The essence of Fall!
Ginger-braised Cabbage with Onions and Apples
1/2 medium head of cabbage, cored and shredded
2 medium onions, sliced thin
2" piece of ginger, peeled, minced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, grated
2 T concord grape jelly
3 T white vinegar
1/4 C water
3 T butter
salt, hot sauce to taste
Place the cabbage, onions, vinegar, water, ginger and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes, until the cabbage is very tender -- there should be basically no crunch left when this is done. (The time depends on the power of the microwave -- I have a low-power oven, 400 watts I think, and this takes 30 minutes in mine.) Stir in the grated apple and jelly and season to taste. Allow to sit, covered, for at least 15 minutes before serving. (Years ago, before I figured out it was easier and just as good in the microwave, I used to braise this in a 225º oven, covered, for a couple of hours, stirring now and then.)
Broiled Duck Breasts
Long Island duck breasts, about 7 - 8 oz each
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Dry the breasts well. Deeply score the skin at 1" intervals and season all over. Preheat broiler to 500º. Pour 1-1/2 cups boiling water in the broiler pan, spray the rack with vegetable spray and, with the oven door ajar, broil the breasts about 5 - 6" from the heating element, skin side down, for 4 minutes. Turn the breasts and continue to broil 8 - 10 more minutes, to an internal temperature of 130º. Place the breasts on a warmed platter, cover tightly with foil, and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.
4 firm bosc pears
1/3 C sugar
1/4 C cognac
Halve and core the pears. Place in a glass roasting pan, cut side up. Brush with cognac and sprinkle with sugar. Roast in a preheated 400º oven, for about 20 minutes. Turn cut side down, baste, and roast another 15 minutes or so, basting several more times, until tender.
Cashew Butter Vinaigrette
1 cup roasted cashews
2 T canola or other oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
salt, hot sauce to taste
Reserve a few nuts for garnish and place the rest in a food processor bowl with the canola oil and process until very smooth.
Mix the cashew butter with the vinegar, olive oil, and garlic and whisk to emulsify, adding water as necessary to thin to desired consistency. Season to taste.
To assemble the salad, slice the duck breast; lay out a bed of the braised cabbage / apple mixture (I put down a bed of baby spinach first, for color and contrast, but that's definitely optional); place slices of duck and pears on top and drizzle with the cashew butter vinaigrette. Garnish with chopped cashews. The rest of my Fall Celebration menu included Cream of Celery and Turnip Soup, fresh homemade Whole-Wheat/Sunflower Seed Bread and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Wild Blueberry Sauce.