You will need a Chinese bamboo steamer or its equivalent for this recipe. As the pears need not be ripe, you may make this at any time of the year, but in the Lowcountry I make it in late summer when our hard local pears are in season.
Cut off most of the green from the leeks and slice them vertically in half down to the base. Rinse them thoroughly under cold running water until they are free of grit, then cut off the base and slice them into thin vertical strips. Put them in a skillet or wok over which a bamboo or stainless-steel steamer will fit, cover with the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
Slice the skin of the duck breasts in several places down to, but not into, the flesh. Sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper. In a hot frying pan, sear the duck breasts by cooking them skin side down until the skin is crispy and brown. Remove the pan from the heat and turn the breasts over to sear quickly on the other side, then remove the breasts to the steamer, skin side up.
Peel, halve, and core the pears. Slice them into thin vertical slices. Add the slices to the leeks, put the steamer with the breasts on top of the pan, cover the steamer, and steam the breasts in the leek and pear vapors for about 7 minutes. The breasts should be medium-rare; clear juices should flow when sliced. Slice the breasts diagonally and serve with the pear and leek mixture. I serve this dish with green beans that have been parboiled, then stir-fried quickly with some ginger and garlic in the fat rendered from the searing of the duck breasts.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.