This is my take on duck à l’orange. Although very different from the classic dish, it uses similar flavor combinations. Celeriac is one of my favorite vegetables, especially with a splash of lemon. During the winter, I use a lot of citrus fruit to add sparkle to a dish. The candied kumquats provide a fragrant combination of acidity and sweetness. Magrets are the big, meaty breasts of moulard ducks (which are raised for foie gras). Or, if necessary, substitute 4 smaller breasts from Pekin (Long Island) or Muscovy ducks and adjust the cooking time accordingly. — Greg Marchand, Frenchie
Excerpted from Frenchie: New Bistro Cooking by Greg Marchand (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Djamel Dine Zitout.
Put the kumquats in a medium-heavy, nonreactive saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil, then drain in a colander and cool under cold water. (This will help remove some bitterness from the fruit.)
Halve the kumquats lengthwise and remove the seeds. Put them back in the pan and add the sugar, salt, star anise, and water just to cover. Bring to a simmer and simmer very gently for about 45 minutes, adding a little water if needed to keep the kumquats covered, until the peel is very tender. Remove from the heat and remove the star anise.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the kumquats to a blender, preferably a heavy-duty one. Add some of the poaching syrup and purée, adding more poaching syrup as necessary. Mix in the lemon juice. Set aside.
Trim the celeriac and peel it. Cut a 1-inch-thick slice from the center of the celeriac and cut it into 6 wedges. Reserve the remaining celeriac for the purée.
Put the celeriac wedges in a small nonreactive saucepan and add the orange juice, butter, and thyme. Bring just to a simmer and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes. Check a wedge with a knife: if the knife goes in effortlessly, it’s done. Set aside in the cooking liquid.
Cut the remaining celeriac into ½-inch cubes. Put in a medium saucepan and add enough milk to cover, then add the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently until the celeriac is very tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the celeriac to a blender and purée, adding a little bit of the cooking liquid if needed. Season with salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the port and seeds in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency, 20 to 25 minutes. Season with a dash of sherry vinegar, strain into a small saucepan, and set aside.
Trim the duck breasts, removing the excess fat and the strip of sinew from each one. Score the skin and fat with the tip of a sharp knife in a crisscross design, making sure not to pierce the meat. (This will help the fat to render.) Season with salt on the skin side only.
Heat a large skillet over high heat until very hot, then add the breasts skin-side down and cook over low heat, carefully removing the melted fat along the way, until the skin is browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the butter, garlic, and herbs and turn up the heat so the butter foams. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper, then turn the breasts over. Cook, basting with the butter and fat, for about 30 seconds for very rare, or about 2 minutes for just rare. Transfer to a rack and let rest for 15 minutes in a warm spot.
While the duck rests, reheat the celeriac purée, braised celeriac, and sauce. Once the braised celeriac is warm, remove it from the pan and keep warm, then boil the cooking liquid to reduce it slightly.
Spoon some celeriac purée onto each plate in a swirl. Add a spoonful of candied kumquat purée and a wedge of braised celeriac, topped with some of the reduced cooking liquid.
Slice the duck breasts and arrange them on the plates. Season each with a pinch of fleur de sel and pepper. Finish with the sauce and the dill sprigs.