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Side dish for duck breast....

I'm making dinner for my girlfriend's birthday. First course is crab cakes. Second course is home made gnocchi with brown butter and sage. Third course is duck breast....here's where I'm looking for a little help:

What would be a good side dish for duck breast. I'm planning on serving the duck breast with a port-fig reduction.

She is not huge on potatoes, plus the course preceding the duck will be potato gnocchi. I'm looking for something spring-ish - though we're in Minnesota and still firmly in winter, so it's not the side needs to scream spring. But, given that, I'm looking for something other than mashed root vegetables, something light so most gratins are out. My fallback is asparagus, as she loves asparagus. Even though carrots qualify as a root veggie, I was also thinking about a very light, loose, and creamy mashed carrot to plate under the duck slices. I think that would take the port-fig sauce fairly well. Thoughts?

(BTW - dessert is carrot cake).

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  1. That's quite a heavy meal so I think asparagus would be good; however, whenever I hear duck I think brussel sprouts. They would go really well with your fig sauce if you roasted them with some maple/brown sugar and even a little bacon.

    2 Replies
    1. re: spinachandchocolate

      And I think sauteed greens. Yum! Love a bit of citrus juice on the greens to "freshen" them up.

      1. re: smtucker

        That's a very rich meal you're planning there! But duck, in and of itself, is quite rich, so something very green and steamed is indicated as a foil. (Ok, the steamed part's not written in stone, but fresh and green.)
        One of my go-to's with duck is a salad made of romaine, sliced onions, sliced oranges and green olives. It's sharp and delicious; dress with a little good orange vinaigrette. We also really like broccoli rabe or broccolini with it.
        And now for the morning's entertainment, a poem by R. Crumb, the fabbaliss Bay Area illustrator:
        Mama bought a rooster
        Thought it was a duck
        Brought it to the table
        With it's legs stickin' up.
        (Duck yas yas, R. Crumb.)

    2. I was thinking morels (Minnesota's state mushroom) and white and green asparagus until you mentioned the port-fig sauce.

      1. Red cabbage is always a good match with duck. I make mine with some tart apple mixed in, and I sweet-and-sour it a bit with red wine vinegar and red currant jelly.

        1. Its curious that folks think the meal is rich. The crab cakes (not homemade, but purchased from an excellent seafood purveyor in the Twin Cities) are actually quite light. The gnocchi should be light as well, especially in a brown butter - no heavy cream sauce. The duck itself is very lean - perhaps not light, but lean. I like the sauteed greens idea, and still leaning towards asparagus - maybe a bit of both for a little color variation, with some light green from the asparagus and dark green from greens. Broccoli rabe is one of my favorites, but is really hard to find in Minnesota - not impossible, but it does take a bit of work (it's definitely not as popular as it is on the east coast; here, few people have ever heard of it.)

          I love the morel idea, but I don't think they'll be out quite yet. We're expecting 4 inches of snow Wednesday. I would go for cabbage, but alas, GF is not a huge cabbage fan....

          Thanks for all the great suggestions, please keep them coming!

          5 Replies
          1. re: foreverhungry

            Now you are a man after my own heart, calling both crab cakes and a brown butter sauce with gnocchi light. But when there's snow on the ground, it's all good.

            1. re: foreverhungry

              ...pretty sure you can find rabe at that big Hmong Farmer's Market in St. Paul. If not, you might consider bok choy or choisum, which I KNOW you can find there. That being said, asparagus sounds delicious too.
              "Rich" was in no way a criticism. I LOVE rich food. I just think of duck as a very luxurious meat, and with the crab, and the brown butter and the gnocchi......yum. By "Rich", I wasn't denoting heavy. Your meal sounds delicious and you are a prince for doing it. : )

              1. re: foreverhungry

                Pea shoots? They should be available in an Asian grocery store; green, slightly bitter, can be good similarly to rapini (your rabe).

                Micro-carrots, micro-parsnips, snap peas, cippollini onions, roasted in sequence.

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  FH--there are more cals in that meal than one should probably have in two days, but it's okay, it's your girlfriend's bday and there are no calories on your birthday. However, it's not your birthday! :)

                  1. re: spinachandchocolate

                    Well it's all portion size. The crab cake from Coastal Seafood is on the light side - lots of crab, little filler. For gnocchi we're talking about a serving size of 10 - 12. Duck breast is lean, probably 3 - 5 slices. The rest of what's on the plate shouldn't be too bad - some braised green of a sort. Dessert...well....there's no way to make carrot cake sound healthy. (But that's what the Sunday afternoon 90 minute spin class is for...)

                2. If you can find baby (the really baby) bok choy.............yum

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Uncle Bob

                    Grilled polenta or hoecake, though your gnocci would be good as side instead of a separate course. Broccoli mousse if you want something green.

                  2. Interesting since we had duck breast just last night with a port wine and dried cherry reduction. Southern style grits and steamed broccoli were wonderful with it! Nice buttery grits (option: add some cheese and a dash of hat sauce to it)

                    1. I am imagining the plate appearance. Sliced duck breast, somewhat fanned, your very nice sauce, and, . . . , what? You need color, of course, as everything else is earth-toned. You need texture -- no crunch or bite resistance.

                      So, I'd go with brightly colored items with texture. Can't go with carrot, as you have carrot cake. Green: Sugar snap peas, or snow pea pods, steamed bright green but left with crunch. A red? Season with small pieces of of red bell pepper, or roasted red pepper, Add some boiled pearl onions or cubed jicama or water chestnut, an herb or two, a tad of sea salt, and away you go.

                      1. I just put up a recipe for duck on my blog, have a look. Instead of mashed potatoes, I use breadcrumbs and chicken stock. It has a similar texture to mashed potatoes, but is much lighter. Given that you're starting with potato gnocchi, I would probably skip the starch entirely and just use a little sauted veg, asparagus and patty pan squash. Wattacetti mentioned pea shoots. I used them in my recipe and they should be perfect to give the dish that "spring" flavor your after

                        http://derekskitchen.blogspot.com/201...