Duck breasts baked in salt

Yield: 4 servings

Measure Ingredient
2 larges Duck Magrets**
Freshly Ground Pepper
3 pounds Coarse Salt
3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
4 Egg Whites -=OR=-
Water; to moisten salt

** Duck magrets are - correctly - the breast fillets from ducks fattened for the production of foie gras. They will come with a generous layer of sub-cutaneous fat, and be from specially bred large birds. In France, you can also get Filets de Canette, which are from ordinary ducks, and should not be used for this dish.

Trim duck breasts and remove and odd hairs and feather stumps if needed. Score skin of breasts in a crisscross pattern at approximately 1" intervals, with a thin sharp bladed knife. DO NOT CUT THROUGH TO FLESH.

Heat a large heavy frying pan over medium high heat. In dry pan, brown duck breasts (not more than 2 magrets at a time) skin side down for exactly 3 minutes. Pour off fat and reserve for making saute potatoes. Leave magrets until ready to finish cooking - 30 minutes before eating.

Preheat oven to 450F, 230C Gas 8. Sprinkle browned breasts with pepper. Mix together the salt and herbs, and then add enough egg white (or water) to make the consistence of damp sand. Make a layer of salt about ½" thick on the bottom of a small roasting tin, just big enough to hold the two magrets side by side. On top of this salt layer, place your magrets, skin side up. Now cover them with the rest of the salt and press firmly to completely seal them with the salt.

Roast exactly 17 minutes on the centre oven rack. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes on a rack (I use the hotbox). Now crack the salt above the magrets, remove them from their beds and wipe & brush as much salt as possible from them - use a paper towel. (Optional - remove skins and remaining fat from magrets and) Carve them diagonally into thin slices and arrange overlapping slices in rows and sprinkle with pepper. Serve immediately.

Note. In the Hotel de France in Auch, where we first had this recipe, chef Andre Daguin serves this with a sauce "Auchoise". This is a hollandaise sauce, but made with the duck fat instead of butter. It is stunning and has LESS cholesterol than the real hollandaise - which, however, you could also use. I serve with little (1cm) cubes of oven fried saute potatoes. Submitted By IAN HOARE On 07-19-95

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