Cocoa-Spiced Duck Breast with Local Baby Turnips in a Piquant Valhrona Chocolate Jus Recipe

Cocoa-Spiced Duck Breast with Local Baby Turnips in a Piquant Valhrona Chocolate Jus Recipe
Staff Writer

This dish from Chef Scott Campbell of New Leaf Restaurant & Bar uses chocolate both in the spice mixture used to season the duck, and also in the flavorful jus that finishes the dish. It is one of the most popular dishes on the dinner menu, and is good to serve on Valentine's Day.

Ingredients

For the chili-cocoa 6-spice:

  • 1 ounce dried Pasilla chile, also called chile Negro
  • 1 ounce dried Ancho chile
  • 1 ounce Hungarian paprika 
  • ½ ounce cumin
  • ½ ounce coriander
  • ¼ ounce cinnamon
  • 2 ounces cocoa powder, preferably Valhrona

For the duck:

  • 4 duck breasts, skin on
  • 1 ounce chili-cocoa 6-spice, plus more for seasoning duck
  • Sea salt, preferably Maldon   
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces sweet butter
  • 8 ounces onions, sliced
  • 16 ounces chicken or duck stock       
  • 2 ounces veal or beef essence (you can also use a beef stock that has been simmered with veal trimmings and reduced by half)
  • 2 fresh bay leaves       
  • 6 branches thyme
  • 1 bunch cilantro sprigs, leaves reserved for another use        
  • 1 teaspoon chipotles in adobo
  • 2 ounces chocolate, preferably Valhrona 72% Guanaja, grated fine, plus more for garnish
  • 8 ounces miniature turnips, peeled
  • 8 ounces miniature Thumbelina carrots, peeled
  • 8 ounces celery root, peeled and cubed
  • 8 ounces butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 ounces tortillas, cut in slices and fried until crisp, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, for garnish
  • 1 ounce micro purple shiso leaves, for garnish
  • 1 ounce pumpkin seeds, for garnish

Directions

For the chili-cocoa 6-spice:

Freshly grind all spices using a coffee grinder, or purchase pre-ground spices. Pour and mix all spices, including cocoa powder, in a bowl and set aside. To keep for a time and best quality, refrigerate. 

For the duck:

Season duck breasts with chili-cocoa 6-spice, salt, and pepper, and set aside.

Heat 1 ounce of olive oil and 1 ounce of butter in a medium saucepot; when butter starts to bubble and then dissipate, add onions and cook at a medium heat. Sauté the onion for a long period until the onions become a dark brown, about 30 or so minutes, until they look like what’s called tobacco onions (if necessary lower heat so they don’t burn).

Add one ounce of chili-cocoa 6-spice and sauté with the onions. If necessary, add more olive oil if the pan is too dry; sauté the spices with the onions for about 1-2 minutes more.

For the jus, add chicken or duck stock, veal essence, bay leaf, thyme, and cilantro sprigs to the onions. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 30-45 minutes, and then strain mixture with a fine mesh strainer. Add chipotles in adobo and grated chocolate, and then whisk in 2 ounces butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside. 

For the duck, heat a large sauté pan to medium high heat. When hot, add seasoned duck breasts to pan, skin side down, and cook for 7–12 minutes, basting with duck fat intermittently, until skin is crisp (lower the heat slightly if it is too hot). Turn over the breasts to lightly cook the other side, for a minute. Remove the duck and let it rest for 5 minutes. To serve, trim off ends off and cut into to medallions. 

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Season well with salt and blanch turnips until tender. Repeat with the carrot, celery root, and squash, as each vegetable will take a different amount of time to cook. Drain and toss with 1 ounce sweet butter. Season to taste and divide between four bowls. Add some jus, and then top with the duck medallions. Garnish with frizzled tortillas, coriander seeds, shiso, and pumpkin seeds. Lightly grate chocolate over the duck to complete the dish.

Cocoa Shopping Tip

There are so many varieties of chocolate on the shelves today it can be overwhelming to pick one – as a general rule of thumb, the fewer the ingredients, the better the chocolate.

Cocoa Cooking Tip

When melting chocolate, use a double boiler and stir occasionally to avoid scorching chocolate at the bottom of the bowl.