Swap out a holiday turkey for this gorgeous Mexican duck breast from Chef Julieta Ballesteros, graciously shared with us by Jessica Lee Binder of Food Mayhem. Binder went behind the scenes in Ballesteros's kitchen, filming her masterfully prepare a sinfully fragrant mole and caramelized plantains as though she was performing a culinary dance. This is a video recipe, without any measured ingredients, but Binder and Ballesteros provide ample information to recreate this exquisite dish at home. Preparing this yourself allows you to feel the ample pride and love associated with culinary experimentation while remaining comfortably within the fail-proof boundaries offered by Ballesteros instruction.
A duck breast, marinated in a simple but full bodied marinade begins to cook as Ballesteros prepares an ancient aztec mole sauce with aromatic spices, rich spiced Mexican chocolate, and dried pasilla and ancho chilis that are roasted to bring out their shimmering flavorful oils. Sweetened with agave nectar and brightened with tomatoes, this sauce is staggeringly complex in the most successful way. After plating the duck breast with the mole, set beside sweet plantains, Ballesteros adds a whispered drizzle of pomegranate reduction that transforms the dish into something so magical we can't seem to pin down the right words to describe it that would honor its perfection.
Written by Jessica Lee Binder of Food Mayhem
Chef Julieta Ballesteros has always dreamed of being a chef. She came to New York from Northern Mexico, to go to The French Culinary Institute, and describes her first place as a small taqueria. But Crema is a full restaurant, her baby, where each plate is her canvas. Her artwork stems from her richly flavorful Mexican background mixed with French influences, my kind of Frida Kahlo.
I’ve been to Crema for brunch twice, and loved it both times. I consider it one of the most under-appreciated restaurants in NY. Take this dish for example (she demos it in the video below), with so much going on. A beautifully prepared duck breast is the centerpiece for a poblano mole sauce, a potato chipotle flauta, some amazingly spiced plantains, and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. No skimping here.
After this demo, I got to eat this dish and I have to say, it’s delicious and I have to eat it again. I’m planning on bringing Lon back for it. The flavors draw from French, Asian, and Mexican influences, put together in a way I could not have imagined.