Dirty Work: A Summer Duck Feast with Daniel Burns of Luksus


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Dirty Work: A Summer Duck Feast with Daniel Burns of Luksus

The chef of Michelin-starred Brooklyn eatery Luksus stopped by to whip up charred cucumbers, pickled green almonds, and a perfectly cooked duck breast, among other magical things.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
July 7, 2016, 9:00pm

When it comes to cooking, it's easy to get caught up in the fantasy of transformation. Vegetables can become gelatinous orbs; meat can infuse ice cream; herbs can be reinvented as, say, a wispy foam placed atop a single scallop over a crumble made of oranges, or what have you. But as with anything else, sometimes it's best to strip all of this away and just keep it simple.

At a place like Luksus—the Michelin-starred, 26-seat restaurant in the back of Brooklyn craft beer bar Tørst—you can enjoy the best of both worlds. At the helm is Daniel Burns, noma and Momofuku alum and chef/partner at the restaurant.

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While Tørst's epic beer menu is curated by Evil Twin Brewery founder (and MUNCHIES columnist) Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, Daniel handles the food side of the space. Together, they recently released the cookbook Food and Beer (brevity is wit, after all) in collaboration with food writer (and MUNCHIES contributor) Joshua David Stein. In the book, you'll find both a five-ingredient salad of seasonal greens and breadcrumbs and a 45-ingredient recipe for nachos. Such is the Nordic, or Nordic-inspired, way; some things remain relatively untouched, while others change form entirely.

When Daniel came by the MUNCHIES garden, we weren't sure what to expect. Something delicious, of course, but of an unknown degree of complexity.

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But when it comes down to it, Daniel wants vegetables to taste like vegetables. As he picked, pulled, nibbled, and snipped his way through the garden, he gravitated most toward carrots, radishes, spring onions, and greens, with only a few detours for yarrow flowers and other delicate additions.

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"I just went for all the nice-looking stuff," he said. "I was mostly just thinking [about] salad. All of these things were very flavorful." (He also took a moment to take a peek in our overflowing compost bin.)

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Back in the kitchen, the mood was light—with A Tribe Called Quest as the soundtrack—and the plan was straightforward. "We're going to char the spring onions and then just do the carrots raw," Daniel explained. "I love radishes. In the book [Food and Beer], we do raw radishes and make this celery salt. I grate celery root and add it to coarse salt, let it hang out for a day, and then dry it out. It would be the best Bloody Mary thing." (Can we get a shaker of this stuff come Saturday morning, please?)

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He had also grabbed some "pretty spicy" arugula and mustard greens to incorporate into a salad that would accompany a centerpiece that he had brought: an absolutely perfect duck breast. From his bag, he also pulled out a few handfuls of pickled green almonds, which had a creamy interior texture and uniquely tart flavor, and would be incorporated into a vinaigrette to top the grilled cucumbers.

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Oh yes—cucumbers can be grilled, in case you've never tried. In fact, although we usually think of them as decidedly cool, they somehow taste more summery when thrown over some heat, and their skins are allowed to blacken a bit. Daniel left them to char on the grill, checking them periodically to ensure that they were cooking evenly.

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Simultaneously, some red peas cooked slowly on the stove with olive oil, shallots, garlic, and vegetable broth. These little legumes would add a hearty, earthy touch to the feast to come.

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Although it was hard not to drool over the fatty skin and rosy flesh of the duck breast, Daniel insists that the vegetables should be considered just as important, if not more. "At the restaurant, when you sit down, I want you to eat vegetables," he said. "In the winter, it might be roasted beets. It's also very important to eat with your hands. Amuse-bouche—I feel like I've eaten it at Per Se and it's on the 30 plates with the gold cup and the gold spoon. This is a little different. Sit down and eat with your hands."

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Finally, all of the components came together. The radishes and the duck breast were served with just a sprinkling of salt, while the red peas were topped with cooked carrots and fennel. The vinaigrette of pickled green almonds turned the charred cucumbers into a sort of inside-out dill pickle. And the charred spring onions were so sweet, they hardly needed any seasoning at all.

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The result: a summer feast that didn't require any fancy tricks, but still tasted like it belonged under a Michelin star.

RECIPE: Summer Grill Out with Duck Breast, Radishes, Red Peas, and Charred Cucumbers

You can thank Daniel for coming up with the perfect menu to showcase fresh-picked summer produce. Now all that we need is a few cold beers to accompany it… and we wouldn't mind trying a side of those 45-ingredient nachos, either.