Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School is destined to be one of those cookbooks that every home cook will return to again and again.
Make the bigarade sauce
Wash and dry the orange and lemon. Use a paring knife to cut 5-cm / 2-inch ribbons of zest. Set aside. Cut the orange and lemon in half and squeeze them separately. Strain the juice after squeezing. Measure out 80 ml / 1/3 cup of orange juice and 50 ml – 3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
Combine the sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan. Place over high heat for about 3 minutes to make a dark caramel. Pour in the vinegar, guarding against splatters, and swirl the pan. Add the orange and lemon juices. Clean the sides of the pan with a damp brush. Cook until reduced by half, about 9 minutes. Bring 100 ml – 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon water to a boil. Add the cube of duck jus. Pour the jus into the caramel. Cook over low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Put the zests into a saucepan with cold water. Bring to a boil. Drain. Refresh in ice water. Repeat this blanching process another two times.
Peel the asparagus spears (remove the scales from the stems/stalks). Trim to uniform length. Wash the asparagus. Tie into two bundles of 6 spears each: With the tips facing downward, twist the twine around a bundle three times, then push the twine down and twist the string around the bundle another two or three times 10 cm – 4 inches higher up. Secure with a knot. Immerse the asparagus in ice water. Bring water to a boil in a small stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt to the boiling water. Immerse the asparagus in the boiling water. Leave the pot uncovered. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Check that they are cooked through. Remove the bundles from the water with a skimmer. Immediately immerse them in ice water and let stand for about 2 minutes. Cut the twine. Drain on paper towels.
Make the duxelles
Cut the stems off the mushrooms. Peel the caps (page 516) and dice. Drizzle with lemon juice. Peel the onion. Halve and chop (page 525). Drizzle with lemon juice. Peel, halve, and chop the shallot (page 525). Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and shallot. Season lightly with salt. Cook for 1 minute 30 seconds to soften. Add the mushrooms and two pinches of salt. Mix. Cover the pan. Cook for 15 minutes over low heat.
Prepare the duck
Remove the muscle membrane and fat from the flesh side of the duck breast, then trim off the excess fat from around the meat. Trim off a little of the fat from the skin side. Score the fat side in a diamond pattern. Carefully season this side with salt and pepper. Heat a deep skillet or frying pan. Place the duck breast in the pan fat side down. Cook for 4 minutes over high heat. Use a spoon to remove fat from the pan from time to time. Continue to cook for 4 minutes over medium heat. Season the flesh side of the breast with salt and pepper. Turn the breast over. Cook for 4 minutes over medium heat. Place the duck breast on paper towels to absorb the fat.
Cut off the asparagus tips. Cut the stems into 3-mm – 1/8-inch slices. Mix them with the duxelles. Reheat the tips for a few seconds. Reheat the bigarade sauce over low heat. Cut the breast into twelve 5-mm – 1/4-inch slices. Fold each slice in half and secure with a toothpick (cocktail stick). Put 2 tablespoons of duxelles into the bottom of each individual serving bowl. Arrange five asparagus tips and three duck slices on top. Immerse the citrus zests in the bigarade sauce. Mix. Let infuse for a few seconds. Add the zests to the bowls, then cover with the sauce. Sprinkle with a little fleur de sel and coarsely ground pepper. Serve immediately.
TIPS FROM OUR CHEFS
Blanching and Bitterness -- Blanching citrus zests, which involves bringing it to a boil in water, refreshing it, and repeating the process another two times, removes the natural bitterness from the zest.
Double Shocking -- The thermal shocks that the asparagus receives as it goes straight from ice water to boiling water, then back into ice water, preserve its color. In addition, the second immersion in ice water immediately stops the cooking process.
Cutting by Hand -- Using a food processor to chop mushrooms turns them dark. It is better to cut them by hand to make light-colored duxelles. The term “duxelles” refers to a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, onion, and shallots that is used in different preparations.