The accompaniment for the duck, which is not really a soup but more of a purée - was inspired by a dish from Derek Dammann, chef at DNA. At a cooking demo he gave at ITHQ he paired a bread soup with pan seared fish. It was simple and delicious. I loved the creamy, mashed potato texture so much that I tried it at home with some duck and found it worked perfectly. Because I'm a sucker for cran-apple sauce, I incorporated these two flavors into the bread soup using fresh Macintosh apples and dried cranberries. A splash of apple cider gives the soup a pleasant zing. Please don't use breadcrumbs out of a tin. They are filled with additives and taste musty. Ask for breadcrumbs at your favorite bakery. The bitter pea shoots and radish leaves balance the sweetness of the apples and cranberries really well, but unfortunately these items can be expensive and/or hard to find. Feel free to replace them with some fresh arugula.
This recipe is for 2 people, but can be easily scaled up for as many people as you like.
1 duck breast
2 cups bread crumbs
100g diced apples
100g dried cranberries
400ml low sodium chicken stock
100ml apple cider
salt & pepper
optional aromatics to use if you have a vacuum sealer:
10 peppercorns, 5 juniper berries, 1 stem rosemary,
1 bay leaf, 1 french shallots & 4 cloves fresh garlic
2. Season the breast with salt and pepper and place it in a vacuum bag along with the aromatics listed above. Seal the bag and let sit in the fridge to let the flavors infuse into the duck. Although not essential, this can be done 24 hours in advance, allowing the flavors to develop with the extra time.
3. Combine the chicken stock and cider and gently simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the breadcrumbs, apples and cranberries and let simmer until the "soup" has the consistency of mashed potatoes.
4. Fill a very large pot with hot tap water. Most hot water tanks are set to heat the water to between 55 - 60C which is very close to the ideal temperate to cook duck sous-vide. The medium setting on most stoves should be sufficient to maintain this temperature. The larger the amount of water you are using, the more stable the temperature will be. Check the temperature with a thermometer and adjust the heat as necessary to keep the water at 60C. If you're brave, you don't even need a thermometer - the water should be almost but not quite the temperature of hot coffee. A quick dip of your finger into the water will tell you if it has gotten too hot or cold. It is better to err on the cold side, because if the duck comes out undercooked you can compensate for this when you sear the breast.
5. Place the sealed duck breast in the pot of hot water and cook for 25 minutes.
6. Remove the breast from the bag and brush off the aromatics. Place the breast fat side down in a cold frying pan. Put the frying pan on high heat. Once the fat starts to sizzle, lower the heat to medium and fry the breast until the fat is golden brown. Flip the breast and sear the meat for about 1 minute, until golden brown.
7. Let the duck breast rest for 5 minutes before slicing, This is very important, because if you slice the breast as soon as it comes out of the pan, all the juices will pour out of the breast.
1. Warm the bread soup and put a small pile in the center of each plate.
2. Place the sliced duck over the bread soup
3. Scatter the pea sprouts around the plate and garnish the duck with the radish leaves.
Final thoughts: The major advantage to cooking sous-vide is the precision that can be obtained in a water bath that you cannot get in a conventional oven. To get the maximum accuracy of the temperature, professional chefs use an immersion circulator - a fancy device that will heat a water bath with the precision of 1/10th of a degree C. You will never get that sort of precision using the Macgyver stovetop technique I have given here, but it is still preferable to using a conventional oven or just a frying pan. Even the lowest setting on most ovens will be much higher than 60C and if you cook the breast to a medium rare in just the frying pan, the meat will not be cooked evenly. Also, sous vide cooking is very forgiving. Five minutes too long in a hot oven can lead to disaster for your duck, whereas five minutes too long in a 60C water bath should not be much of a problem.