If someone were to ask me "What is the best meal you ever had?" The first to come to mind would be the Pan Roasted Duck with Seared Foie Gras & Caramelized Pears that was prepared by Chef Brian Recor.
Some years back, I had a magazine assignment at Rattlesnake in Indio, CA. I had numerous assignments that day all over the Palm Springs area. If you have ever been to Palm Springs you know that it is very spread out between Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, Indian Wells, Indio etc. At any rate I felt really rushed during this assignment. Brian was right on time preparing this beautiful dish. I did the photo shoot and Brian asked if I would like to taste the Roasted Duck. I knew I was going to already be late for my next assignment, so I told him I would love to, could I get it to go? He looked a little crestfallen but reassembled it into a styrofoam container and we said our goodbyes. I love photographing chefs because they are usually fun creative types. Brian was all of those - a lovely person. At any rate, I'm racing back to Palm Springs and was ravenous, so I took a bite of the food (one hand on the wheel the other on a fork - I'm a pro at eating in my car on the run) and it was bar none the best thing I've ever tasted! Immediately I felt terrible that I hadn't been able to take the time to sit down properly and enjoy this wonderful meal with the chef. This most joyous thing about preparing a good meal is sharing it. I later conveyed my appreciation for his culinary talents via email, but have always felt a little sad not to be able to express, just how wonderful it was, in person.
While pondering what I might make for Valentine's Day - this dish came to mind. While I don't have his recipe, I found one that might work:
Pan Roasted Duck with Seared Foie Gras & Caramelized Pears
3 Bosc Pears, peeled, cored and quartered
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 red onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black peper to taste
3 tablespoons walnut oil
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 cups torn escarole leaves
1 bunch watercress, stemmed (about 3 cups)
1 large bunch arugula, stems trimmed (about 3 cups)
6 duck breasts
12 to 18 ounces foie gras, cut into 6 medallions, each about 1/2 inch thick.
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, toss the pears with the butter. Sprinkle with the spices, sugar, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the pears evenly. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, saute the pears until they sizzle, about 4 minutes. Transfer the pears to the oven and roast, turning them a couple times, until golden brown and tender, 25 to 45 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, cut the onion in half through the root end and then into 1/2 inch wedges attached at the root. Toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the onions out in a shallow pan and roast in the oven until soft, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the walnut and olive oils to make a creamy dressing. Set aside.
4. Heat a heavy ovenproof skillet on med/high and sear the duck breast fat side down first and then the other side. Transfer to preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes. (you could do this at the same time as the pears)
5. When ready to serve, toss the greens together. Divide the pears and onions amount 6 salad plates. Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Season one side of the foie gras medallions with salt and pepper. Place the medallions in the pan, seasoned-side sown, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned. Drain any excess fat. Season the medallions with salt and pepper, turn the foie gras with a flat spatula, and cook for 1 or 2 more minutes, or until softened but still firm. Transfer to a paper towel to drain briefly. Lightly dress the greens with the vinaigrette and divide among the plates. Top each salad with a sliced duck breast and a medallion of foie gras and serve immediately.
I'll let you know how it turns out. What would your most memorable meal be?
Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman