Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lunch Week 7: Seared Duck over Lentils

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch the next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it every week unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided.

So my lunch for the week: Seared Duck over Lentils
Channeling my loved of French food, I made seared duck with lentils. It may not seem very French to many of you but this is a very homey type comfort food. You might find it in brasseries but certainly not in fine dining restaurants. It's an every day type of dish. Hearty and rich, perfect for colder weather.

I started with the vegetables. I used onion, carrots, and celery. The normal trinity of vegetables to get a good base flavor going. I slowly sauteed the vegetables in a large pan with oil until softened, about 15-20 minutes.
While that cooked down, I cleaned the lentils and picked out any strange or broken pieces. I used black beluga lentils as they tend to keep their shape when cooked. They also adopt a nice round shape similar to that of caviar, hence the name.
Once the vegetables were softened, I added the lentils and lightly cooked them, about 3-5 minutes.
Then I added generous amounts of wine. I cooked that down until full reduced and absorbed by the lentils.
It should look something like this. Then I slowly added warmed stock in ladlefuls until the lentils are cooked through, about 45 minutes. The process is similar to cooking risotto.
The lentils should be nice and plump now. When you bite into it, it should be soft and yet still chewy at the same time. Once cooked through, I added some chopped green olives for acidity and brininess. It's help cut the heartiness of the lentils and the fattiness of the duck.
Speaking of duck. I seared the duck breasts skin side down on medium low heat until the fat rendered out.
Once crispy and browned, I drained the fat off (don't throw it out; keep it in a container in the refrigerator for future use) then seared the meat side slightly for about 3 minutes.
I let it rest so the juices can run back into the meat. You can see the scoring of the skin I did prior to cooking it. It helps render the fat.
Then I sliced the breast into half inch pieces. Look at that nice pink color. Perfect.
This is the type of meal that a little goes a long way. So don't pile your plate high. It'll be too filling. A nice ladle of the lentils topped by half a duck breast. That should be enough to make you happy. It certainly made me happy. The nuttiness of the lentil with the fattiness of the duck. The olives gives it the perfect amount of acid to round it out.

Recipe below is adapted from's recipe for Mini Rack of Lamb with Nutty Beluga Lentils and Sautéed Garlic Spinach

Seared Duck Breast Over Nutty Beluga Lentils
Makes 10 servings
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 stalks of celery, finey chopped
2 cups Beluga lentils
2 bay leaves
2 cups red wine
4-5 cups chicken stock, warmed
Salt and pepper

1. In a large pan on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and saute the vegetables until they are softened, about 15-20 minutes.
2. Add the lentils and bay leaf and saute for 5 minutes, coating all the lentils. Increase the heat and add the red wine. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring, until the mixture becomes dry.
3. Add the warmed chicken stock to the lentils (like cooking risotto) one ladle at a time, letting the lentils absorb the liquid with each addition. Repeat, stirring the mixture constantly. After 30-45 minutes the lentils should be slightly chewy and tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you run out of stock, use warmed water.
4. Pat duck breasts dry. Score skin (do not cut into meat) in a cross hatch design. Season with salt and pepper. Add to cold saute pan. Turn on heat to medium low and allow fat to render out, about 10-15 minutes. Drain fat from pan (do not discard; save for future use in an airtight container in the refrigerator). Turn heat up to high and sear the skin until crispy, about 3 minutes. Check to see if it's browned. Then flip and sear on other side for another 3 minutes. Remove and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice into 1/2 inch pieces and serve over lentils.


  1. Hot damn! I love perfectly rendered duck with the skin super crispy and the meat still a bit pink. YUM!

  2. Looks great! what a special lunch!

  3. The fat side of the duck looks like it needed a lot more time. You shouldn't see that thick layer of white fat; the object is to try to render as much of it as possible from the inside out. Also, that meat looks raw. All and all, this bird needed more time to be prime duck eating.

    1. I actually like a bit of fat left on my duck but that's just personal preference I guess. As for the doneness, it was actually medium rare. The power of photoshop makes it look more rare than it actually was.


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