Holiday Duck

Just in time for the holidays, Sonoma-based restaurateur Sondra Bernstein is celebrating the publication of her second cookbook, Plats du Jour, the Girl & the Fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine County. Sondra and her partner, executive chef John Toulze, tell the story of Sonoma’s farmers, ranchers, cheese makers and vintners through 100 recipes and wine pairings. The majority of this duck recipe, ideal for entertaining, can be completed up to two days ahead of time.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast, Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables and Red Wine Gastrique

Serves 6

6 duck breasts

For the vegetables:
7 tablespoons blended oil
2 small celery root, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch batons
2 small rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch batons
2 small parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch batons
6 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the gastrique:
K medium yellow onion, cut in small dice
1 celery stalk, cut in small dice
1 large carrot, cut in small dice
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
4 cups duck stock or chicken stock
1 cup veal demi-glace
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

To prepare the vegetables:
1 Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium ovenproof sauté pan heat 3 tablespoons of blended oil over high heat and sauté the celery root, rutabagas, and parsnips for about 6 to 8 minutes until they start to turn golden brown. 2 Add the honey and toss the vegetables well to coat. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast until they are soft and caramelized, about five minutes. 3 Add the butter, and stir to combine. Cover the vegetables with foil and keep warm.

To prepare the gastrique:
1 In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons blended oil and sauté the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic over medium-high for about 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables are caramelized. 2 Spread the sugar evenly over the vegetables. Stir constantly to make a dark caramel, about 5 to 7 minutes. 3 Deglaze the pan with the red wine vinegar. (The sugar will seize up but will melt again after a few minutes.) 4 Add the bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns. 5 Let the vinegar reduce until almost dry, about 3 to 5 minutes, and add the duck stock. Bring to a boil and reduce by half. 6 Add the demi-glace, and reduce until the sauce holds a nice line on a plate, about 5 to 7 minutes. 7 Strain the gastrique through a fine-mesh sieve, whisk in the butter, and set aside in a warm spot.

To prepare the duck:
1 Score the fat side of the duck breasts, making crisscross marks with a paring knife and being careful not to cut all the way through to the flesh. 2 Lightly coat a sauté pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons blended oil and place the duck breasts skin side down on low heat to render out the fat. (Do not overcrowd the pan; you may have to render the duck in two separate batches.) 3 Continue to render until the skin is golden and crispy, about 10 to 15 minutes. 4 Flip the duck breasts over and sear the flesh side, increasing the heat to medium-high and basting the skin using a spoon and the rendered duck fat. Cook the duck to desired doneness (135°F for medium rare). 5 Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

To plate:
Arrange the root vegetables in the center of 6 large, warm plates. Spoon the gastrique around the vegetables. Slice the duck breasts into 4 slices lengthwise, place the slices on top of the vegetables and serve.

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.