Here is a dish that was inspired by an old classic German dish, braised red cabbage.  This took me back to an old dish that I used to make early on in my career.  I was working at the Hilton and there was a pork chop on the menu that we served with braised red cabbage and apple sauce.  I wanted to do a take on that with duck breast and serve it  not necessarily in the same fashion.  Typically braised cabbage has bacon, apples, red cabbage, vinegar and some spices.  Since I was doing this dish with duck breast I wanted to use duck bacon (or duck scraps) to give the cabbage a duck flavor.  I also decided to make the sauce out of the braised red cabbage instead of serving it in its traditional way.  Instead of apples I had some quince that I poached and then pureed which worked excellent with the tangy cabbage sauce.  The final result was one that really came together perfectly with sweet, sour, tart, and fatty earthy flavors.

2 duck breast trimmed, cleaned, and scored

salt and pepper

"braised" red cabbage sauce

2 cups red cabbage juice  (2 small cabbages or 1 extra large juiced)

3 shallot sliced

2 garlic cloves sliced

1 tbsp of olive oil

1/4 cup of duck bacon chopped (or scraps from cleaning the duck breast)

1/3 cup sherry vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 bay leaf

5 tbsp of sugar

2 tbsp of corn starch

2 tbsp of water

Quince Puree

3 Quince peeled

1/2 cup of lemoncello or champagne or white wine

3 cups of water

1/2 cup of sugar

1 lemon

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1 tsp of salt

1/2 tsp of agar agar

1 cup of english peas blanched

rosemary flowers to garnish

baby arugula

For the Quince puree,

Peel the quince and place in into a pot with all the ingredients except the agar agar.  Bring quince to a slow simmer and then cover.  Simmer for 25 minutes or until the quince are tender.  Strain out the quince and reserve the poaching liquid.  Cut the quince meat away from the core and discard the core.  Place the meat into a blender and add about 1 cup of poaching liquid.  Puree until smooth. You want the puree to resemble something like applesauce. Place puree back into the poaching pot.  Add agar agar and cook for about 5 minutes.  I added agar agar here because it will keep the water from seeping out of the puree and help with the texture a bit.  Adjust the seasoning with salt, or sugar depending on your preference, if needed.  Set aside until ready to use.

For the "braised"red cabbage sauce

In a medium sauce pot add oil, duck bacon (or scraps), shallots, garlic, cloves, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf.  Saute for 5 minutes then deglaze with sherry vinegar.  Reduce the vinegar by half and then add the red cabbage juice and sugar.  Season with a touch of salt and cook for 15 minutes.  Then thicken the sauce with your corn starch slurry ( water and cornstarch).  Add the corn starch slurry while the sauce is simmering hard.  Once the slurry has been add you can turn down the heat to low and let it cook for another 5 minutes.  Then adjust the seasoning if need be by add a sugar, salt, and pepper if needed.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside until ready to use.

For the Duck

Clean the duck of any sinew, skin, and excess fat.  Then score the fat (skin) on top of the breast making sure not to go all the way through the fat.  Then season with salt on the skin side.  In a screaming hot cast iron or saute pan place the duck breast skin side down into the pan with no oil, butter or spray.   Immediately turn down the heat to medium low and let it cook on the skin side for about 20 minutes.  Season the bottom side now with salt and pepper.  I didn't put pepper on the skin because I didn't want to burn it.  Now you want to render that skin down to where it is crispy like bacon.  You need to do that slowly with medium low heat.  Because there is so much fat on that duck breast you might need to drain the excess fat out of the pan so the breast doesn't steam in the fat.  You don't want the breast swimming in fat because you want the skin to crisp-en up.  Once that skin has cooked all the way down flip the breast over and cook for 30 seconds.  Then take out of the pan and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Then trim the edges and cut nice slices of breast.    

To plate

Take the braised red cabbage sauce and drizzle on the plate.  Add 3 spoonfuls of the quince puree.  Add the duck slices next to the puree.  finish with english peas, baby arugula, and rosemary flowers.  Serve and enjoy a dish full of flavors and textures.

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