Sugar and Chile Cured Duck Breasts

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This is Chef Robert McGrath's contemporary take on trail food, inspired by the Old West. It’s a whole other world from hardtack, however, and lots more fun to eat.

Yield: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 4 boneless, skinless duck breasts (8 ounces each)
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chopped shallot
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons red bell pepper
  • ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon snipped chives, for Garnish

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, chile powder, and salt. Evenly rub the mixture over the duck breasts; place on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  2. For the Sauce: In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the corn and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the shallot and white wine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly and put in a blender; purée until smooth. Add the cold butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Strain the sauce back into the saucepan and keep warm. Just before serving, stir in the ketchup. Assembly: Prepare a barbecue grill. When hot, brush off the excess dry cure from the duck breasts and place the breasts on the grill. Cook until still pink inside, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Cut the duck breasts diagonally into thin slices and plate. Spoon the corn sauce over the open portion of the plate and top with chopped chives.

Tips/Techniques

For best flavor, let the duck breasts sit in the chile cure overnight before cooking. Cracklings made with leftover duck skin are a real treat and a great garnish: Put the skin in a very hot oven to render all the fat and to get crispy. Then cut it up and sprinkle on the duck breasts just before serving.
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