Salt Cured Duck with Wild Mushroom Couscous – Top Chef Masters Night

To celebrate the new season of Top Chef, we had to make a dish from the winner of Top Chef Masters so we went with SPOILER ALERT
Marcus Samuelsson’s salt cured duck from one dish (official recipe here) and wild mushroom couscous from another (recipe here).

While the judges raved over Samuelsson’s foie gras “ganache,” that element was decidedly out of our league, but K had two duck breasts in the freezer (because who doesn’t, right?) so we made the duck from one dish and the couscous from the berberre Hamachi meatballs dish — the meatballs of which were not such a hit with the judges.

The duck recipe called for brining and smoking. We don’t have a smoker so K found a similar duck recipe from Marcus Samuelsson online (which I can’t find, sorry). It called for brining the duck in salt water for four hours. K popped the quackers in the brine before he left for work so they brined a bit longer.

While he started searing them to get the skin crispy, I made the Israeli couscous and sautéed porcini mushrooms and some mystery mushrooms with truffle (a jar of which was given to K as a birthday gift). And hey, fresh porcini mushrooms are expensive! It was almost $20 for one container of them so I opted for the $5 dried variety and reconstituted them in a bit of hot water for about 30 minutes before sautéing. I added some truffle oil (also a birthday gift for K — this was the year of the truffle apparently) and butter to the mushrooms and, when the couscous was cooked just enough, folded everything together and sprinkled with truffle salt. The whole thing smelled like a deep, dark, delicious cave.

With the skin crispy but the meat underneath still too rare, K put the duck in the oven for a few minutes and reduced some balsamic vinegar. Not really in the recipe, but proved to be a fantastic idea. Then we found we had a pan of hot duck fat left over. We also found we had one potato left over.  What to do? Slice up the potatoes and fry them up in the duck fat. BRILLIANT!

I grated manchego cheese onto the couscous and, when the duck was cooked and had rested for a few minutes, K assembled the plates. The duck breast on its own was extremely salty, but still full of ducky goodness. However, when you loaded up your fork with the seductively earthy couscous, a piece of briny duck then dipped it into the piquant vinegar reduction it was absolutely the perfect bite. Thank goodness there were many bites. And the duck fat fried potatoes? How could you *not* love something that was fried in duck fat?

Congratulations on the surprising win Marcus Samuelsson! We didn’t see it coming, but we could taste it was well deserved. Now on to Top Chef D.C.!  

Salt Cured Duck with Wild Mushroom Couscous

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