Duck with Turnips and Rye Spaetzle
October 22, 2018 | Updated June 06, 2022
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I admit it: Duck with turnips is not an original dish. It is my recreation of one I had years ago at San Francisco’s Perbacco restaurant, where Swedish Chef Staffan Terje makes beautifully simple Northern Italian food.
In truth, this dish would be at home anywhere from the Arctic Circle to the Alps, and there is nothing that screams “Italian” about it, especially if you are an American used to Southern Italian cooking. But damn is this a wonderful dish!
Perfectly cooked duck breast — I used specklebelly goose breast instead, which is a lot like the breast of a Muscovy duck — with rye spätzle, baby roasted turnips, their greens and a rich duck jus. It was a “shut up, I’m eating kind of moment.”
One of the things that was so remarkable about this dish was the spätzle. You could really, really taste the rye. I happen to have a Vitamix blender with a dry blade attachment — you can use this to grind your own flour. So I bought some rye berries and ground them into flour to make these spätzle.
Wow. You actually can taste the difference from regular rye flour, which can get stale easily. Not that I am asking you to do the same, but if you happen to have a way to grind your own flour, this would be a good time to do it.
Making spatzle is super easy if you have a spätzle maker, which are easily available online and are less than $15. If you don’t have one, you can make the batter more runny and push it through a colander or perforated pan.
Duck with turnips is classic California — and Italian — food: It’s not hard to understand, there’s not too many things on the plate, and each thing that’s there makes sense. Thanks, Chef Terje! I’ll be making this again.
Duck Breast with Rye Spätzle and Turnips
- 2 cups rye flour
- 1 egg
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk (see headnote)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Vegetable oil for coating
DUCK and TURNIPS
- 1 pound baby turnips, with greens
- 2 tablespoons squash seed oil or other high-quality oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup duck glace de viande, demi-glace, or 1 cup beef stock boiled down by half
- 1 whole large duck or small goose breast (both halves, about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon duck fat or butter
- Salt and black pepper
- Splash of malt vinegar
- Start with the spätzle. Mix all the spaetzle ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter should be sticky and should flow like thick lava. Set aside while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water heavily; it should taste like the sea.
- Load up your spätzle maker and get a large bowl of ice water ready. Fill up the pot of boiling water with the dumplings. Once they float to the top, let the spaetzle cook for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and dunk in the ice water. When all the spätzle are cooked, remove from the ice water to a tea towel and let the dumplings dry a few minutes. Put into a baking sheet and toss with the vegetable oil to prevent them from sticking. You can make the spaetzle up to a day in advance.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Remove the greens from the turnips and set aside. Toss the turnips in the squash seed oil, salt well and roast in an uncovered baking sheet for 35 minutes, or until slightly browned.
- Meanwhile, put the red wine in a small pot and boil it for 2 minutes. Add the glace de viande and keep boiling the mixture. You need to be vigilant here, tasting every few minutes, because you can get a weird, bitter taste to the sauce if you boil it down too much. When it tastes good to you, turn off the heat. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes total.
- Sear the duck breast according to my instructions here.
- When the duck breast is resting, add the turnips, turnip greens and half the spätzle to the pan you cooked the duck in. Saute over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the spätzle is hot and the greens are wilted. (You can either repeat the process with the rest of the spaetzle or reserve it for another dish.)
- To serve, give everyone some of the spätzle-turnip mixture and pour over some sauce. Slice the duck breast thickly and put it on the spaetzle. Splash a little malt vinegar over everything right as you serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
My german grandmother made her spaetzle without any special tools…just a wooden cutting board and a spoon. She made a stiffer dough and turned out onto a clean board and used a teaspoon to deftly crimp off each individual spaetzle…then swept them all into a pot of boiling water. She usually served with pork roast and gravy. yum. She would be 115 if still alive. Learned back in the old country.
Fantastic! Rye spaetzle is a favorite of my family’s. We usually have it with bratwurst and cabbage kraut, but I happen to have a goose in the freezer and some baby turnips in the ground. I assume going from duck to goose won’t be too much of a problem – similar meat textures. I was just wondering what to do with that goose. It takes up significant space in the freezer, and prime hog hunting time is coming up for my area.
My father-in-law taught me how to make Spätzle using a cutting board and the back edge of a long knife. Put some salt water on the cutting to wet it then place some dough at the top of cutting board. Let the dough run down the cutting board toward the boiling pot. Use back of wet knife to scrap long thin strands into water !
Patrick: Oooh, old school! Those are great spatzle.
would hakurei turnips work? Fall turnip season should start soon here.
CJV: Not sure what they are, but any root vegetable would be fine.
I’m very glad that I was a witness to the spread of the spaetzle gospel. I love recipes like this that were born to spread among friends. It will always bring to mind a night of good company and great food. I know this is delicious now, but it’s going to taste like paradise when the first snows land.
Mmm, rye spaetzle sounds good. When making it i use a large spoon or ladle and a teaspoon to scoop small amounts of spaetzle into the hot water as quick as you can. When i worked at a German restaurant many moons ago we would make lots of spaetzle and freeze it in fish tubs(tupperware) and it would keep well for weeks. We would thaw it, pull it out of the tubs by scraping handfuls into another container then fry it on the griddle in butter. Sounds like time to go out back and find a “donor” duck. Can’t wait for the book to try out more duck recipes, i may have to double or triple my breeding this year.