Chicago’s first cider bar, The Northman is serving up all the good eats with its cider-infused dishes, not to mention its vast cider selection and weekly “cider school” classes. Here chef Kevin McMullen spills the secrets on working up the restaurant’s top-seller: a complete pan-roasted duck dish.
This dish showcases the duck as its centerpiece; with every ingredient functioning as a complement. “The flavors in this dish are based around the duck, which is rich,” McMullen explains. “To support the richness, we added apples braised in cider to bring out some acidity. We add cider to complement the flavors of the sweetness in the carrots, and the luscious, savory aspects of the duck. The cider adds some sweetness, a slight acidity and some warmth.”
The chef uses the House Pub Cider in the recipe, but a fuller, off-dry cider would suffice if not in Chicago. Though he recommends a lighter, crisper dry cider for pairing with the dish, he does suggest sneaking a sip or two from the cooking cider. “Drink some cider while your cooking, good vibes equals good food.”
And another pro tip from McMullen: With the duck, make sure you render out as much of the fat from underneath the skin so you’re left with a super crispy end result. Then have some more cider.
Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Cider-Carrot Puree, Curried Carrots and Cider-Braised Apples
Recipe by Chef Kevin McMullen, The Northman
1 thyme sprig
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cider
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 onion, julienned
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups (16 ounces) cider
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 cups (16 ounces) cream
1 pound baby carrots
1 tablespoon duck fat, or butter
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 duck breasts
Salt, to taste
1-2 tablespoon neutral oil
7-8 leafs of Thai basil, for garnish
For the apples, using a melon baller, carve balls out of the apples. Place the balled apples in lemon water so they do not oxidize. When ready to cook, strain the apples. In a stock pot over medium heat, add the cider, thyme, salt and apples, braising for 20 minutes. Strain and set aside.
For the carrot puree, melt the butter in pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat it until translucent, then season with salt. Add the carrots and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Deglaze pan with the cider then add the cream, bringing up to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the cream and cider mixture is almost completely cooked out, about 25 minutes. Blend with butter and check seasoning. Pour the liquid through a fine strainer and set aside.
For the curried carrots, heat a saucepan over medium-high. Add the duck fat and curry powder, mixing together and cooking for a few seconds until it is fragrant. Add the carrots and salt, cooking until tender and stirring occasionally so they do not burn, approximately 15 minutes. Set aside.
For the duck, preheat the oven to 425 °F (218 °C). Place the duck breasts on a cutting board, scoring the surface of the skin, making sure to not cut all the way through. Season liberally with salt.
Working in two batches, place a pan on medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and two duck breasts skin-side down in the pan before if gets too hot. This will slowly start rendering out the fat.
After 2 minutes, rotate the breasts 90 degrees and continue to render out the fat. After another 2 minutes take pan off heat, place in the oven. For medium-rare, cook 6-8 minutes in the oven. Repeat with the other two breasts. Let the breasts rest on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes before serving.