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I Thought I'd Thaw a Duck


Duck always seems like a complicated thing to cook, but duck breasts are easy and they make a great winter dinner. They're available in the freezer section of most supermarkets .

I recently seared spiced duck breasts medium-rare (I think they're best that way), then thinly sliced and fanned them out over a bed of spaghetti squash. To make the squash, pierce the squash's skin in several places with a sharp knife, then place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake it at 350 degrees until tender when pierced with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. Cut it in half, scrape out the seeds, then scrape the flesh into strands with a fork.

The chutney yields more than you'll need for this meal, so serve the rest with pork, ham, lamb or other poultry. It also makes a tasty, low-fat sandwich spread.


Seared Spiced Duck Breasts

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 20 minutes

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 boneless duck breast halves (1 pound), skinned, trimmed of visible fat

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

Combine the pepper flakes, cinnamon, coriander and salt in a small dish. Sprinkle half the mix on top of the duck breasts, dividing evenly. Gently pat the seasoning in place with your hands.

Heat the oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, place the breasts, seasoned side down, in the skillet. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning over the unseasoned side of the breasts. Cook, uncovered, turning only once, until the underside is browned, about 3 minutes total for rare, about 5 minutes total for medium. (The meat becomes tough when well done.)

Transfer the duck to a warm platter. Cover with foil; let rest 5 minutes.

To serve, cut each breast across the grain on a slight angle. Place each on the cooked spaghetti squash, fanning out the slices. Drizzle with any pan juices. Top the duck breasts with about 2 tablespoons of Warm Cranberry Apple Chutney. Serve hot, passing any remaining warm chutney separately.

4 servings. Each serving: 225 calories; 373 mg sodium; 130 mg cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 4 grams saturated fat; 0 carbohydrates; 23 grams protein; 0.30 gram fiber.


Warm Cranberry and Apple Chutney

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 tart apples, unpeeled, cored and diced

2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat the oil in a non-aluminum saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic; cook 1 minute.

Add the apples, cranberries, sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, ginger, salt, allspice and cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the fruit is tender, about 10 minutes. (This can be kept 10 days refrigerated or frozen up to 1 month. To serve warm, gently reheat, adding water if the mixture is too thick. The chutney can also be served chilled or at room temperature.)

3 cups. Each 1/4 cup: 59 calories; 29 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 0 saturated fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 1.32 grams fiber.

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