Main Dishes

Claudio Aprile’s Seared Duck Breast with Roasted Beets and Spinach

Claudio Aprile’s Seared Duck Breast with Roasted Beets and Spinach


5 beets
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 (6 oz) duck breasts
1 tbsp flaked or good-quality sea salt, plus more for finishing
¾ cup baby spinach leaves
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
6 star anise
1 tsp whole Szechwan peppercorns
5 coins of ginger, skins on
½ cup fresh coriander, leaves and stems, roughly chopped
½ orange, cut into slices, peel on
4 cloves of garlic, skins on
3 tablespoons of honey
Total Time: 30 min
Makes: 2 servings


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Wash and trim stems and roots of beets. Do not peel.
Place beets in baking dish and toss generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender.
While beets are still warm, peel skins using a paring knife. (Wear gloves to avoid staining hands.) Put peeled beets aside and allow to come to room temperature. Pour any beet juice, olive oil, salt and pepper that remains in the baking dish into a small pitcher or bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, place duck breasts in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up the fat cap.
Score the fat of the chilled duck breasts in a diamond pattern without cutting into the flesh.
To score: Using a sharp knife, slice into the fat cap width-wise on the diagonal, spacing the cuts ½”-1” apart; turn breast 45 degrees and slice fat cap in the opposite direction, creating a ‘diamond’ pattern.
Add soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, star anise, Szechwan peppercorns, ginger, coriander, orange slices, garlic cloves and honey to a large baking dish. Mix to combine. 
Lay scored duck breasts flesh-side down in baking dish, ensuring the fat cap of the breast is not in contact with the marinade. (The marinade on the fat will burn during the cooking process.)
Cover baking dish with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum 6 hours.
To sear duck breasts: Sprinkle flaked sea salt evenly across the bottom of a well-seasoned cast-iron or non-stick pan at room temperature.  Lay duck breasts fat-side down in pan and turn heat to high. 
Sear duck breasts for approximately 3-4 minutes on high heat; briefly apply a bit of pressure to the top of the duck breast to ensure even contact with the surface of the pan.
When skin is crispy and brown, lower heat to medium-high. Flip breasts and baste with rendered duck fat in pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Remove duck breasts from pan and drizzle with rendered fat and juices. Let rest for 5 minutes.
To plate: Cut the stems and roots of each beet, approximately ½” from the top and bottom of each, so it can lie flat on the plate. Cut each beet in half cross-wise, making thick slices.
Place 5 beet halves in a row along the middle of the plate.  Top the row of beets with a line of baby spinach leaves, laid lengthwise, facing the same way and overlapping the next just slightly.
Slice seared duck breast cross-wise into ¾” slices, fan and lie atop the stacked beets and spinach leaves.  Drizzle with leftover beet juice, oil and salt from roasting pan and sprinkle with flaked sea salt.