Shop with a Chef: Chris Mills

Chef Chris Mills’ resume is stacked. He was part of the first Canadian team to compete on Iron Chef Japan, he placed fifth against the best in the world at the Bocuse d’Or, and he recently travelled to New York to cook for the prestigious James Beard Foundation—for the second time. Here he discusses what can be done in one pan with Pekin duck breast.  

What to Buy

The best kind of duck is Pekin (not to be confused with the legendary dish Peking duck), as it has the best combination of rich meat with just the right amount of fat. “When buying duck breast you want to make sure it has a uniform shape, that the skin has an even colour, and that there are no blemishes. Particularly, you want to make sure there are no pinfeathers, which indicate that the duck was raised under poor conditions. Good producers slaughter the duck when it reaches maturity, before the pinfeathers grow. They’re a pain to remove, but even worse to bite into.” In Vancouver, Chef Mills goes to Chinatown for duck from Fraser Valley Duck and Goose at Lee Loy BBQ Meat & Co. (419 Gore Ave., 604-685-6025).

How to Cook

Remove any excess fat hanging over the breast and score the skin. Marinate it, fat side up, for two days in the fridge with orange zest, fresh thyme, shallot, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Once it has absorbed the flavours (it will smell like Christmas), brush off the marinade and sear the skin in an oven-proof pan at medium-high heat, then slowly turn the heat down to medium once the skin starts to brown. After about two or three minutes the skin will achieve a really nice dark golden colour. Flip the duck and slip the pan into a 350° oven for four or five minutes. Rest the duck on a plate and reserve half the fat for a salad dressing made with red onion, bacon, honey, olive oil, cider vinegar, Dijon, thyme, diced apple, hazelnuts, and cubes of sourdough, all cooked in the duck pan. Toss the dressing with spinach, Napa cabbage, and radicchio, then top with the thinly sliced duck breast.