With the cooler weather comes a shift to bolder flavours. This intensely seasoned duck can be served hot or cool and sliced thinly like ham. If you are serving it hot, robust seasonal greens such as rapini, kale, mustard leaves or chard sautéed with garlic make a wonderful counterpoint to the briny, rich sweetness of the meat. If serving it cold, pair with sweet mustards and pickled fruit.
If you have the inclination, smoking the duck while it is cooking on a covered hot barbecue by using smoking chips will add complexity to the flavour. With or without the smoke, the results are terrific.
Ready time: 45 minutes, plus 48 hours for brining
1.5 litres water
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
5 bay leaves, crushed
1/2 tablespoon juniper berries, crushed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon allspice, crushed
3 12-ounce Moulard duck breasts, trimmed
1/4 cup black peppercorns, crushed
1/3 cup juniper berries, crushed and chopped
Add sugar and salt to water, bring to the boil and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Add all the remaining ingredients for the brine. Leave to cool completely. When the brine is cold, submerge duck breasts and refrigerate for 48 hours. Remove duck breasts from brine, rinse under running water and pat dry.
Combine dry-rub ingredients. Roll the breasts in the dry rub, pushing the combined ingredients into the meat evenly.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. In an ovenproof pan, sear the breasts on both sides, place the hot pan in the oven with the duck skin-side down and cook until medium rare (approximately 12 to 15 minutes). Move the duck to a cooling rack placed over a plate.
If serving hot, allow to rest in a warm spot for 4 to 5 minutes, then cut lengthways into several slices and serve, pouring over any juice that has collected on the plate.
If you wish to serve it cold, allow to cool completely, wrap tightly and refrigerate until required. Slice thinly across the breast and against the grain before serving.