As winter officially comes to an end, this recipe will take us back a few months, when I found inspiration from two separate experiences. First, while vacationing in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, I had dinner at sEb L’artisan culinaire, a restaurant that serves local, seasonal products, telling “an epic tale in which meat from our local farms, seafood from the Atlantic and vegetables from our gardens are enhanced by quality wines chosen with care and passion”. Sure, whatever, but what really caught my attention was the foie gras pierogi on the menu, served with smoked pork belly, grapes, and pearl onions, and topped with a foie gras foam and some fresh herbs. With the word “pierogi” in the dish’s name, I was confident I stumbled upon another subject for my Red Alert series, but since one of the goals of those alerts is to inspire me to create my own recipes, I decided to skip a step and go straight to the kitchen.
A couple weeks later, after returning home from that Quebec trip, I went to the Finger Lakes to hunt ducks with Captain Bill. This was my first foray into Western New York’s late duck season, which runs during the first half of January. It’s a time of year when the weather can be rather brutal around those parts, especially if you’re sitting still on a boat on a lake whose surface has already started to freeze. But for your pain (which is itself relative when you have propane heaters onboard), you get to see flocks of thousands of migratory birds, gathering all together and then taking flight if they get disturbed. Of course, you can see thousands of wild ducks flying high in the sky, and not be able to call a single one within shooting range, and this happened more than once over the course of the weekend. Then sometimes you get lucky, and you have a barrage of a dozen birds passing right in front of the boat in textbook-like formation… All told, I came back home with a substantial number of wild ducks of various species, waiting to be plucked, skinned, boned, and cooked.
I’ve already posted a detailed article about Ukrainian varenyky, and pierogi are pretty much the same thing. Compared with sEb’s version, I haven’t made a ton of changes. The foie gras dumplings, pearl onions, and grapes are still here. The pork belly has been replaced with duck breast, which is still smoked (sort of: I’m using Wright’s Applewood Liquid Smoke), to go with the duck liver. The foie gras foam is gone because this is 2017 after all, not 2007, and I’ve added an apple sauce as a replacement of sorts. I’m using black truffle instead of fresh herbs, if only because truffle is arguably more in season. Don’t worry, you don’t need a ton of truffle. The result is both rustic (the sautéed pierogi, the earthy truffle, the smoky duck) and refined (the foie gras), with flavors that I tend to associate interchangeably with Central Europe and Upstate New York where my wild ducks were shot.
Smoked duck breast
Yields about 4 servings
0.3 g pink salt
10 g kosher salt
3 g sugar
1.5 g Wright’s Applewood Liquid Smoke
240 g water
80 g whole wild duck breast, skinned
- Place the pink salt, kosher salt, sugar, and liquid smoke in a blender with the water, and process until dissolved. Transfer to a quart container, submerge the duck breast in the brine, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours.
- Transfer the duck breast to a sous-vide pouch with about 100 g of the brine. Vacuum-seal, and cook in a 54.5 C / 130 F water bath for 1 hour.
Yields 4 servings
12 peeled pearl onions (about 100 g)
50 g butter
- Season the onions with salt, then place in a very small saucepan with the butter. Cover, and cook over very low heat for 1 hour, shaking the saucepan regularly, until the onions are completely tender.
- Let cool in the saucepan, then drain. Reserve the onions and the “onion butter” separately.
Yields 4 servings
12 red seedless grapes
- Make a small cross mark at the top of each grape with the tip of a knife. Drop the grapes in boiling water for about 10 seconds, then shock in a bowl of ice water.
- Peel the grapes, and reserve.
Yields 4 servings
140 g peeled McIntosh apple, small dice
50 g chicken stock
15 g butter
- Place the diced apple and chicken stock in a small saucepan, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Transfer to a blender, then add the butter, and salt to taste. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a plastic container, and reserve.
Yields over 4 servings (16 pierogi)
90 g AP flour (sometimes slightly more; see below)
1 g salt
45 g egg
15 g egg yolk
8 g olive oil
- The amount of dough is too small for use of a stand mixer, so we’ll make it by hand. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt, and make a well in the center. Beat the egg and egg yolk together, then pour into the well together with the olive oil. Using your hands, mix the flour into the egg mixture little by little, until it eventually forms a smooth paste.
- Transfer to a floured surface, and knead for about 3 minutes. If the dough sticks, add a little bit more flour as necessary. Wrap in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
Foie gras pierogi
Yields 4 servings (16 pierogi)
160 g raw foie gras
black pepper, ground
1 egg yolk
15 g water
flour (for dusting)
- Cut about 2/3 of the foie gras into small dice, and the remaining 1/3 into a brunoise (having chunks of various sizes helps fill the pierogi a bit more). Season with salt and pepper, and reserve in the refrigerator.
- In a bowl, mix the egg yolk and water to make an egg wash.
- Using a pasta machine, roll the pasta dough to the thinnest setting. Cut 16 discs of 8 cm diameter with a cookie cutter.
- Brush each disc with the egg wash, place a spoonful of foie gras in the center, then fold into half-moon shapes and seal the edges with your fingers. Each one should have a generous amount of filling, but not so much that it’s difficult to seal properly. Keep the pierogi on a sheet tray or plate dusted with flour.
Yields 4 servings
foie gras pierogi
10 g onion butter
10 g canola oil
smoked duck breast, large dice
5 g black truffle
- Cook the pierogi in a large pot of boiling salted water until soft, then drain.
- Heat the onion butter and canola oil in a pan over high heat. Sauté the pierogi until slightly colored, shaking the pan regularly. Reserve on paper towels.
- In the same pan still over high heat, sauté the duck cubes for a few seconds, stirring constantly.
- Reheat the apple sauce in a saucepan over low heat.
- Reheat the onion confit together with the grapes in a saucepan over low heat.
- Divide the apple sauce between 4 bowls. In each bowl, place 4 ravioli on top, then garnish with 3 onions, 3 grapes, and a few cubes of smoked duck. Shave some black truffle on top using a Microplane grater, and serve.