Seasonal Flavors: This I Ate in Bilboa, Spain

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Seared Duck Breast on Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Photo: Denise Zito

Will I ever travel again?

It was such a meal that I came home two years ago and made it four times for four different groups of friends. It is autumnal, delicious, really easy, and elegant.

Naturally, I put my own spin on it, to give it a little Virginia flavor. We have local cider now from Chiles, Henley’s or Carter’s Mountain, and the markets are full of sweet potatoes. Duck breast? Talk to the kind folks at the Free Union Grass Farm.

Invite your friends at 5 p.m. Have a cocktail. Serve this at 6 p.m., and blow them a kiss goodbye at 7, because it’s getting a little cold for distance dinners. 

Seared Duck Breast on Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 T salt
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 duck breasts
  • Some olive oil and balsamic vinegar-seasoned arugula 

Peel and dice the potatoes, cover in apple cider, add the salt, and boil until tender. Drain the potatoes, add the butter and mash.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan, score the duck breast skin with a sharp knife, salt and pepper well, then sear on high heat for five minutes, turn and sear for five minutes on the other side. Duck breast is traditionally eaten rare. One can’t eat chicken rare, but duck?  Yes. Why? I don’t know. If this makes you queasy, cook them a little more.

Remove the duck to a cutting board and slice thinly.

Put ¼ of the mashed sweet potatoes on each of four, heated dinner dishes.  Arrange half of each duck breast slices in a pinwheel shape atop the mashed potatoes.  Toss the arugula atop. Serve immediately. Great with a rich, ripe Pinot Gris or almost any Pinot Noir. 

Serves four.

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