This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006.

Fusion on the fly

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 boneless duck breast, skin on, 12-16 ounces (roughly 1/3 kilo)
Black pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1-inch length fresh ginger
Dried red-pepper flakes
1 cup (240ml) chicken or duck broth
Pinch of saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon (1 or 2g) turmeric
1/4 teaspoon "five spice" powder
4 ounces fettuccine
1 tablespoon (15g) cornstarch
2 ounces (60ml) heavy cream


1. Pan-sear the duck breast, using the procedures outlined in the FoodLetter editions of Jan. 15, 2004 and Feb. 3, 2005: Season the duck breast with salt and pepper and put it skin-side down in a dry skillet (preferably nonstick) over high heat until the skin starts to crackle and give off its fat; then turn heat to medium low and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes, pouring off the fat occasionally (reserve it for future use) and turning the breast once or twice.

2. While the duck is cooking, peel and mince the garlic and ginger and put them in a small bowl with a healthy dash of dried red-pepper flakes. Measure out the broth and stir in the saffron, turmeric and "five spice."

3. When the duck is warmed through - don't worry if it's still quite rare, as it will cook further before serving (and slightly rare duck is delicious, anyway) - remove it from the skillet. Carefully cut off and discard the skin. Cut the remaining portion into bite-size pieces and reserve.

4. Start the pasta cooking in a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook it according to label instructions or until al dente, typically 7 to 10 minutes for fettuccine.

5. While the pasta cooks, remove all but about 1 tablespoon of the remaining duck fat from the skillet. In the remaining fat, cook the minced garlic and ginger and red-pepper flakes until the vegetables are soft and aromatic. Put in the duck pieces and stir once or twice; then add the broth with its flavorings, bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to very low.

6. When the pasta is almost ready, dissolve the cornstarch in a little warm water and stir it into the simmering broth, stirring constantly until it thickens. Add the heavy cream and stir until it's incorporated. The result is a reasonably close approximation of a serious cream sauce, with only a fraction of the fat and calories.

7. Drain the pasta thoroughly, then put it into the pan with the sauce and duck meat and stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Turn it into warm bowls and serve with your choice of green vegetable or salad and, if you like, crusty bread.

WINE MATCH: The earthy, dark duck meat and the rich, creamy sauce with its blend of aromatic flavors make this a wine-friendly dish, well matched with a variety of wines including both whites (Riesling would be an obvious candidate) and reds (from Burgundy/Pinot Noir to Northern Italian reds to the Rhone Valley). I was pleasantly surprised to find that it stood up well to a hearty California red, Concannon 2003 Central Coast Petite Sirah.