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Duck Breast with Radicchio and Bitter Greens

Duck breast has a fairly thick, fatty skin. When the breast is seared, some of the fat melts away, flavoring the meat in the process, and the skin turns a lovely golden brown. To accomplish this, place the breast, skin side down, in the pan to start, as this speeds the fat-melting process without overcooking the breast. (The meat should be at least pink, if not deep rose, when done.) Once the skin is brown, turn the breast over to allow the meat to cook in the rendered fat. If desired, remove the skin before serving.

A full-bodied red wine such as a Barbera from Italy or a Syrah from France wonderfully complements the rich flavor of the duck and the bitter flavor of the greens.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to
      taste
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 small heads radicchio
  • 1 cup baby arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup watercress, red Asian mustard greens or
      dandelion leaves (bite-size pieces) or
      additional whole baby arugula leaves
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 whole boneless duck breast

Directions:

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil to make a thick vinaigrette.

Using a sharp knife, cut away the hard white core from the base of the radicchio. Cut the head lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick, then separate the layers and remove the hard V-shaped core. Put the radicchio in the bowl with the vinaigrette. Add the arugula, watercress and parsley and gently mix. Set aside.

Pat the duck breast dry. In a fry pan over high heat, warm the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. When it is hot, add the duck breast, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until crisp and golden brown on one side, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the duck breast over and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Cover the pan and cook until the duck breast is medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes more. Drain briefly on paper towels.

Transfer the duck breast to a cutting board and use a knife to separate the breast halves. Cut each breast half crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick.

Heap the radicchio mixture in a bowl or on a platter, fluffing up the middle, and arrange the duck slices on top, giving them a final sprinkling of pepper. Serve while the duck is still warm. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Salad, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2001).