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A delicious alternative to chicken, the perfect winter recipe - Irish duck breasts, parsnip purée with a cranberry and red wine sauce

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Irish duck breasts, parsnip purée with a cranberry and red wine sauce
Irish duck breasts, parsnip purée with a cranberry and red wine sauce

Duck is a very popular meat on the menu of many restaurants in Ireland today. It is a tasty alternative to chicken and at this time of year it is an introductory step for conservative eaters to all of the wonderful Game meats that are now coming into season over the winter months. Duck, especially if you can get wild duck, will open your taste buds to a whole new range of delicious meats like pheasant, quail, Pigeon, Grouse and even Rabbit! Great for a Christmas treat!

The secret to cooking a duck breast lies in dealing with the quite large amount of fat in the skin, but  without ruining the meat. To address this simply pour off the fat after you seal the skin-side, leaving a beautifully delicious and crispy skin, before you turn the breast to seal the other side. Keep this fat, as it is delicious for roasting potatoes and will keep for weeks in a jar in the fridge.

I recommend that you treat your duck breast as you would a steak and cook it to the same degree that you would eat a steak- I like mine just shy of medium - but please don’t over-cook your meat!

Duck Breasts with parsnip purée & cranberry wine sauce

My Ingredients:
500ml (1 pint) Red Wine
1/2 chicken stock cube mixed in 200ml (7 fl oz) boiling water
2tbls cranberry sauce
4 Duck Breasts
3 Parsnips
50g (2oz) Real Butter
a little olive oil
salt & black pepper
2 heads of Broccoli

My Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F= gas mark 6 = fairly hot)

2. Bring the red wine to the boil and reduce by two thirds.  Add liquid stock and reduce by half, add the cranberry sauce and simmer for approximately 10-15 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon butter (this will give your sauce a wonderful shine and extra flavor) and season to your taste.

3. Trim the sinew off the meaty side of the duck breast and score the skin with a sharp knife. Rub a little salt and black pepper into the skin, this will also help to make it even crispier.


Parsnips have a delicious sweet taste that works well with game birds like Duck

4. Prepare the parsnip purée by peeling the parsnips and cutting them into chunks. Boil in salted water, cooking until tender. Drain and add a little butter & white pepper. Mash until smooth. If you wish you can use a hand blender to make the puree very smooth like you would get in a restaurant. Keep it hot under a lid.

5. I like to serve a little broccoli with this dish and I would steam the broccoli now, over the parsnips while they are cooking. Keep the broccoli hot under a little tin foil.

6. Heat a heavy metal frying pan but do not put any oil or butter on it.  Place the duck breast on the hot pan skin side down. Cook for 2 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Gently pour off the fat and turn the breasts to seal in the other side for another minute. 


The dry pan will make the skin crispy and you pour off
the fat before you turn the Duck

7. Transfer the pan to the oven (or place the duck on a baking tray if your pan has a plastic handle) and cook for approximately another 6-8 minutes for medium. You can adjust this time depending on your preference.

8. Remove the duck breasts from the oven and cover with a dry cloth to let them rest for 3 or 4 minutes. When you cook any meat, it is essential to let it rest for a little bit before you carve it. This ensures that all the juices that are under pressure during the cooking are redistributed throughout the whole piece. As a result, less juice runs out of the meat when you cut into it.

9. To serve, slice the duck breast and sit it on top of the broccoli. Garnish with the parsnip puree and cranberry gravy.

If you wish, you can take another peeled parsnip, cut it into thin strips with a veg peeler and drop into some hot oil, as you would when making chips. Take them out after 20 seconds just as they start to colour and dry on some kitchen paper. They will go crispy and you can arrange these on top of your duck for that extra special touch!

For more from Zack see www.IrishFoodGuide.ie 

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