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Bacon-wrapped Duck Breast Stuffed with Apples, Chestnuts
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Published: 12/17/2008 12:05 AM

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Roasted Apples

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 Honey Crisp apples, peeled, cored and each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges

12-16 peeled whole chestnuts, fresh or frozen

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

Duck breasts

4 boneless, skinless duck breast halves (about 6 ounces each), butterflied

24 thin slices bacon (see note)

1/4 cup grape seed or olive oil

For the apples: Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the butter, water, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the apples and toss to coat. Spread the apples out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast, stirring frequently, for 20 minutes. Add the chestnuts and roast for 10 minutes or more, or until the apples and chestnuts begin to brown and the butter and water have been absorbed. Remove from the oven, toss with the thyme, and set aside to cool. This can be made the day before serving.

For the duck: To butterfly the breasts, first remove the skin, and then, with a sharp knife parallel to the cutting board, make a horizontal cut along the rounded, thinner side of the breast. Spread the breast open so it forms a heart shape. Working with 1 breast at a time, spread butterflied breast, skin side down, on a work surface.

Place 4 apple wedges down along the center and fill in between with the chestnuts, using about 4 per breast. Fold the breast meat over onto itself to form a roll. Place 4 lengthwise slices of bacon, overlapping, on the work surface and place 2 slices perpendicular to the other so they overlap by 1 inch to form a cross. Place a duck breast in the center, parallel to the 2 bacon slices, fold the bacon over the duck, and then roll it up to make a neat package. Repeat with the remaining breasts and bacon. Once wrapped with the bacon, the breasts can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours, but any longer and the bacon will begin to cure and discolor the meat.

To cook: Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large ovenproof saute pan. Carefully place the bacon-wrapped duck breasts in the pan and cook on all sides for about 6 minutes to render and brown the bacon. Drain off most of the fat from the pan and put into the oven to finish the cooking, about 15 minutes for medium-rare. Remove the pan from the oven and let the duck breasts rest for 5-8 minutes.

To serve: Trim off about 1/4 inch from the ends of each duck breast, and then cut each breast crosswise in half.

Serves four.

Cook's note: At the restaurant, we slice the breast and serve over celery puree with caramelized honey crisp apples, a ragout of wild mushrooms, and a cider duck jus.

Boneless Long Island or Pekin duck breasts are the perfect size for this recipe; avoid larger, gamier Muscovy or Moulard breast because they're too big. You can find boneless duck breasts in many good butcher shops, or by mail order. If you're good with a knife, purchase several ducks when they're on sale and bone them yourself. Use the legs to make confit or for a braised duck dish and use the carcasses to make flavorful duck stock.

It's important for the bacon to be sliced superthin so that it wraps easily around the duck, sticks to itself, and renders quickly, leaving only a crisp trace of flavor. Our first choice is apple wood-smoked bacon. Buy a slab and slice it at home, or find a butcher who will slice the bacon for you.

Chef Sean Eastwood, Isabella's Estiatorio, Geneva