A great dish for the holidays!.. The duck breast is seared first and then glaze with a licorice ginger honey sauce and finished in the oven. The meat is served with mashed potatoes seasoned with pistou. Pistou has an Italian cousin: pesto which is originally based on olive oil, basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan. Pesto/Pistou is indeed versatile and can be made with different greens and nuts according to the dish. In this version, basil is subbed for arugula; its peppery flavor pairs well with the duck.
*Licorice (Réglisse) is popularly used for confectionery especially in Europe. For the glaze, you may substitute anise in place of licorice. However, if you are after the strong black color and taste of licorice, it is better to follow the recipe as is. Anise is a fruit from the anise herb plant, while licorice is a root from the licorice plant.
*Duck breast may vary in size. A 1 lb./450g breast would serve 2.
Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Add a few pinches of salt, bring to boil and cook for 30 minutes or until fork tender. Meanwhile, quickly blanch arugula in boiling and salted water; cool greens in ice water. Drain and press greens between a few paper towels. Meanwhile, toast pine nuts for a few minutes over the stove (optional). In the food processor, mix greens with garlic, parmesan, nuts and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Peel off potatoes while still warm. Smash and add heavy cream and season to taste with pistou. Readjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer mashed potatoes to a large shallow dish and pop in the oven 10 minutes before serving or mold out into small cakes using individual cake ring.
Pat dry duck breasts and place uncovered, in the refrigerator and leave overnight to allow the skin/fat to dry out. This step will help develop a crispier skin. Take the duck out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Remove silver skin and any remaining bloody spots. With a sharp knife, make very shallows tight cuts across the surface of the duck. It helps to render fat more efficiently. Season with salt generously, especially the fat side.
Mix ground spices together and set aside. Turn oven on to 450ºF/220ºC. Place a large frying pan or sautoire over medium heat and when it begins to warm up, sear duck breast fat side down for ≈2.5 minutes. Flip it and sear for 2 minutes and transfer meat to a plate. Remove rendered fat from the pan; save the pan for the glaze.
Add water or stock to the pan along with honey and spices.. a little fresh rosemary sprig can be added too – stir it up and cook for a couple of minutes or until it comes to syrupy consistency; not too thick though. Season with salt in necessary. Transfer glaze to a gravy sauce boat.
Put the seared duck breast back to the pan (fat side up), season with pepper and glaze. Put in the oven and finish cooking at 450ºF/220ºC for 8 to 10 minutes (baste meat after 5 min). The internal temperature should reach 132/135ºF (55/57ºC). Transfer the meat to a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Deglaze pan with some water or stock, bring to a boil and save remaining glaze if desired.
Serve sliced duck on side of the reheated pistou mashed potatoes. Duck breast is best served when cut on a bias. Garnish with some fresh arugula tossed in olive oil or a couple of rosemary sprigs. Enjoy!