Ancho-Seared Duck Breast with Mole Rojo and Crunchy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

Duck breast pan-seared in ancho and garlic-infused rendered duck fat and served with crispy duck skin, classic mole rojo and crunchy tomatillo-avocado salsa..

Ancho-Seared Duck Breast with Mole Rojo and Crunchy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

For the Ancho-Infused Duck Fat

1/3 cup rendered duck fat
1 large ancho chile, stemmed, seeded and torn
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon organic annatto seeds
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Melt duck fat in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.  Add ancho, garlic, annatto and oregano and cook just until it begins to sizzle a little.  Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow to steep 1 hour before straining into a clean container.  Store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.

For the Crunchy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa (recipe by Rick Bayless)

8 ounces (about 4 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1/2 cup (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 small serranos or 1 small jalapeño), stemmed and roughly chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin
1 small white onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Salt

Roughly chop half of the tomatillos and scoop them into a food processor with the cilantro and green chiles.  Measure in 1/4 cup water and process to a slushy, coarse puree.  Roughly chop half the avocado, add it to the processor and pulse until it is incorporated into the salsa.  Scrape into a serving dish.  Scoop the onion into a small strainer and rinse under cold water.  Add to the salsa.  Finely chop the remaining tomatillos and add them, too.  Finally, chop the remaining avocado into 1/4-inch pieces and stir them into the salsa.  Taste and season with salt, usually about 3/4 teaspoon.

For the Mole Rojo

Made right, classic mole is a rather elaborate and time-consuming affair.  If you haven’t made it before, I would suggest studying Rick Bayless’ recipe for Mole Rojo Classico.  In a pinch, you can use store-bought El Conquistador Teloloapan Red Mole.

For the Cracklings

1/4 cup duck skin with fat, julienned
1 teaspoon Ancho-Infused Duck Fat
1/2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
coarse sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Heat duck fat in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the julienned duck skin and sauté, stirring continuously, until dark golden brown and crisp.  Transfer to a napkin to drain and toss with cilantro, salt and pepper while still hot.

For the Duck

Use a sharp, thin knife to score a cross-hatch pattern into the fat side of the duck breast, taking care not to cut into the muscle.  Season on all sides with salt, pepper, thyme and nutmeg, then lay bay leaves against the flesh, loosely wrap in butcher’s paper and refrigerate overnight (Thomas Keller).

Allow to duck breast to sit on the counter for 20 minutes while you pre-heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the duck breast skin-side down to the hot pan, then reduce heat to medium low and cook, moving often, until the skin is golden brown and much of the fat has been rendered out.

Flip the breast over and sauté for 1 minute, then pour off the fat and place the pan in a 375 degree oven and cook until until rare, about 8 minutes. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and allow to rest at least 15 minutes.

Heat ancho-infused duck fat in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add inch-thick slices of rare duck breast and quickly sear on all sides until medium rare.

To serve, spoon mole into the center of a dinner plate.  Position duck on top of the mole standing upright, dress with tomatillo-avocado salsa and garnish with cracklings.

4 thoughts on “Ancho-Seared Duck Breast with Mole Rojo and Crunchy Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa

  1. This was good. I skipped the tomatillo salsa and did a cilantro oil instead. I also glazed the duck breast with the mole, as Bayless suggests at the end of his mole recipe. Also, did extra almonds in the mole recipe and used half of them ground, as a garnish over the finished dish. I liked it a lot. Serving it for a dinner for 20 Valentine’s Day. Thanks!

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