At his renowned restaurant on Pawleys Island, South Carolina, Louis Osteen serves as many highly creative dishes as Southern classics, and none has impressed me more than his succulent seared duck breasts with buttery Savoy cabbage. If you can find Savoy cabbage, fine; if not, I’ve learned that the more common red cabbage works just as well—or perhaps even better—for the dish. Louis rubs the duck breasts with olive oil and black pepper and lets them “cure” overnight before cooking, but, frankly, I can’t detect any difference in flavor this extra step makes. Today, more and more markets carry boneless duck breasts (at a hefty price), but if you can’t find them, any good butcher should be able to fill the order. The other option is to buy whole ducks and cut away the breasts yourself. Whatever you do, remember that the breasts should be seared no more than medium-rare, and that overcooking only toughens them.
In a large, heavy skillet, heat the oil till very hot but not smoking. Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper, add to the hot oil, and sear 1 minute on each side. Reduce the heat to moderate, continue to cook the breasts 5 minutes on each side, transfer to a platter, and keep warm in the oven.
Add the butter to the skillet and stir, scraping the bottom to collect any bits of debris. Add the cabbage, cook till slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes, turn over, and cook until lightly browned on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Add any juices collected on the platter of duck breasts, toss the cabbage well, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, divide the cabbage evenly among 6 serving plates, cut the duck breasts into 4 slices each, and place on top of the cabbage. Spoon the juices from the pan over the duck and cabbage and serve immediately.
© 2007 All rights reserved. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.