In the Kitchen with Top Chef Fan Favorite Shota Nakajima

Top Chef Season 18 "Fan Favorite" Shota Nakajima (and his surprise sous chef!) take us through an impressive, elegant dinner that can be made in less than 1 hour.

Soy Braised Duck with Butternut Squash

Chef Nakajima purees cooked butternut squash with duck fat and miso, turning the simple vegetable into a rich side dish. The squash is topped with duck breasts that have been braised in teriyaki, soy sauce, fresh ginger, and green peppercorns. For the garnish, he separates the layers of pearl onions before pickling them in rice vinegar and sugar, making for a delightful contrast to the rich duck and squash.

Serves: 4
Active Time: 1 hr
Total Time: 1 hr

Ingredients

Pickled Red Onion:

  • 8 ounces red pearl onions, halved through root, trimmed, layers separated
  • ¾ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ¾ cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons water
  • ½ cup sugar

Butternut Squash Puree:

  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup duck fat
  • ¼ cup super-white miso

Soy Braised Duck:

  • 4 Pekin duck breasts
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 1 ¼ cups teriyaki sauce
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 slice (1-inch) fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ teaspoons green peppercorns

Directions

  1. Make the pickled onions: Place onions in a medium heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the vinegar mixture over the pearl onions and let pickle for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain before using.
  2. Make the butternut squash puree: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Season the water with salt, add the squash, and cook until tender. Drain the squash and transfer to a blender. Add the duck fat and miso, and puree until smooth. Cover and keep warm.
  3. Make the duck: Heat a large dry skillet over high heat. Add the duck breast skin side down and cook until browned on both sides. Do not cook through. Transfer to a plate.
  4. In another large skillet, add the water, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and green peppercorn; bring to a boil. Add the duck to the sauce in the skillet, skin side down. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit in skillet for 5 minutes. Using tongs, return the duck to the plate and let rest for 3 minutes. Bring the liquid in the skillet to a boil again. Remove the skillet from heat, add the duck, cover, and let the duck rest for 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice the duck breast. Place a large spoonful of puree down on the plate and set the duck breast on top. Garnish with 2-3 pieces of pickled onion on top or around the plate.