Our cookbook of the week is Ruffage by chef, writer and former farmer Abra Berens. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with its author.
Ribboned and caramelized red cabbage is the centrepiece if Abra Berens’s comforting main dish. Using a quick, high-heat cooking method on the cruciferous vegetable – pan-searing or roasting larger quantities in a “ripping hot oven” – ensures you’ll steer clear of any undesirable sulphuric aromas.
Inspired by Alsatian-style red cabbage, Berens devised a way to achieve the same depth of flavour using a dressing instead of a braise. And while she pairs the bright and light herbaceous result with duck breast, she notes that it “would be perfectly at home with chicken, pork chops or seared salmon.”
If you end up with leftover brown sugar-vinegar sauce, Berens recommends mixing it with sparkling water for a refreshing drink (30 mL sauce, 240 mL sparkling water and an optional 30 mL of bourbon) or using it to “punch up another sauce (like tomato sauce for pasta or a glaze for roast chicken), roasted vegetables or a purée.”
SEARED DUCK BREAST WITH BROWN SUGAR-VINEGAR CABBAGE, ROASTED POTATOES AND HERB SALAD
2 lb (910 g or 2 to 3 potatoes per person) Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (6 to 8 oz/170 to 230 g) duck breasts
1 head (3 lb/6 cups/1.4 kg) red cabbage, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup (120 mL) brown sugar–vinegar sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 bunch parsley (1 1/2 cups/68 g), roughly chopped
10 sprigs chives, minced (optional)
1 sprig rosemary, minced (optional)
Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
Dress the potatoes with a glug of olive oil, a big pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast until crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, about 35 minutes. Reserve, rewarming if necessary for the final steps.
Meanwhile, score the skin of the duck breast into either diamonds or slices, trying to avoid cutting the flesh, and season liberally with salt and pepper.
In a large, cold frying pan, place the duck breasts skin-side down and turn on a medium heat. As the heat builds in the frying pan, the fat will render through the cuts in the skin and crisp. Let it go longer than you might think you should. Cook until the skin is brown and crispy, and the meat medium rare, about 15 minutes. Flip the breasts for 4 minutes to cook in the fat. Remove the duck breasts from the pan and let rest for 7 to 10 minutes.
Increase the heat under the frying pan to high and add the cabbage with a pinch of salt to roast in the rendered duck fat (if you don’t have the rendered duck fat in the pan, simply pan roast it with olive oil). Allow to sizzle and lightly brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the brown sugar–vinegar sauce and toss to coat well.
Toss the warm potatoes with the dressed cabbage and the parsley, chives and rosemary (if using).
Place the duck breasts on a serving platter next to the potato-cabbage salad and serve. (If the duck skin softens while finishing the cabbage salad, simply kiss it in a hot pan or recrisp under the broiler.)