When we talked to Martha Stewart yesterday, we also asked her which recipe from her new book, Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home, that she'd recommend for Los Angeles cooks at the moment, given the season and the available produce. "The duck breast is really good. It's a Mallard duck breast with cabbage and a potato cake. And figs. You have such nice figs out there right now." Stewart says that, as with all 52 menus in the book, this one will take about an hour, maybe less. And that's if you make the whole menu. Stewart pairs the duck with braised red cabbage and slices of grated potato cake, and ice cream with hazelnut brittle for dessert. Of course you can just make the duck.
And although the recipe calls for prepared fig jam (it is a time-saving recipe), you can make your own using the figs that are currently loading the tables at LA farmers markets. For a fig jam recipe, as well as other recipes for fresh figs, go to Stewart's website: there are currently 8,439 entries under 'fresh figs'. You may need to raid your neighbor's tree as well as your own. Or maybe every fig tree in Los Angeles.
Duck breast with fig sauce
Note: From Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home. Duck breasts are available at butcher shops, and at Bristol Farms and Whole Foods. They render quite a lot of fat as they cook. If you like, strain the fat and refrigerate for up to a month; use it for roasting or frying potatoes or making duck confit.
2 duck breasts (1 pound each)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup fig jam
1/2 cup chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium store-bought
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
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1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the duck breasts at 1/4-inch intervals in a crosshatch pattern, cutting deeply into the fat but not the meat. Season the duck all over with 1 teaspoon salt and a generous pinch of pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add the duck breasts, skin sides down; cook until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn the breasts and transfer to the oven; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part (avoiding bone) registers 130 degrees F. for medium-rare, 10-12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the duck to a cutting board; let rest.
3. Meanwhile, pour off the rendered duck fat into a heatproof container. Return 2 tablespoons duck fat to the pan (reserve the rest for another use or discard). Add shallot; cook over medium heat until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the sherry (it will spatter), and cook 1 minute, until sauce is thick and emulsified. Add butter; cook, stirring, until combined, 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice.
4. To serve, thinly slice duck diagonally against the grain; divide among four plates. Spoon fig sauce over duck.