FIFTH FLOOR | San Francisco
Melissa Perello knew at a young age that she wanted to be a chef. One day after school, Perello’s mother came home to find her 12-year-old daughter de-boning a leg of lamb. After high school, she moved to New York, where she studied at the Culinary Institute of America. An externship at Aqua under Chef Michael Mina in San Francisco led to a full time position there after graduation, and Perello cites Mina as an influential mentor. Moving on to the kitchen of Aqua’s sister restaurant, Charles Nob Hill, Perello was fortunate to find another mentor in Chef Ron Siegel. “Ron taught me how to create relationships with purveyors and make ingredients shine,” she says. After Siegel left his executive chef position in 2001, Perello was asked to fill his role. Now at the Fifth Floor, Perello has received tremendous critical acclaim for her California-inspired French cuisine. She describes her style of cooking as “ingredient-inspired and ingredient-driven,” which results in pure, clean flavors, grounded by flawless classic technique.
Pan Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast,
Duck Confit, Fingerling Potato Hash
Chef Melissa Perello of Fifth Floor – San Francisco, CA
Adapted by StarChefs.com
- 2 - 3 duck legs
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 handfuls fresh herbs, broken into small pieces
- Melted duck fat
- 1 ½ pounds small fingerling potatoes
- 5 Mariposa plums
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 Tablespoons wild flower honey
- 4 duck breasts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 Mariposa plums
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Rinse duck legs and place in small baking dish. Combine salt, sugar, and herbs, and cover the duck legs with mixture, coating completely. Let sit for one day.
Preheat oven to 300º F. Remove legs from salt and sugar mixture and rinse legs under cold water. Place legs in small baking dish and submerge in fat. Cover with foil and place in oven. Cook for 4 – 6 hours, until bone slides out easily. Remove legs from fat; cool to room temperature. Remove bones, skin and cartilage. Break meat into small pieces. Reserve.
Rinse potatoes thoroughly and place in pot of cold, salted water. Bring potatoes to a simmer and cook until tender. Drain potatoes and allow to cool on baking tray. When cool, place potatoes in a mixing bowl and break into chunky pieces. Add duck meat and season. Work potatoes and duck meat together by hand and form round cakes 3-inches in diameter and ½-inch thick. Set cakes in refrigerator to cool.
Heat large non-stick skillet and add reserved confit oil. Once pan is smoking hot, add hash cakes and turn to low setting. Allow cakes to cook to dark crispy brown before flipping. Once cakes are golden on first side, gently flip to alternate side and repeat.
For Plum Gastrique:
Seed and dice plums. Combine with vinegar and honey in small non-aluminum pot. Cook slowly over low heat until plums become thick and syrupy. Allow plums to drain completely over fine mesh sieve, reserving only liquid that drains.
For Duck Breasts:
Trim duck breasts of excess fat and score skin, but do not pierce flesh. Season duck with salt and press peppercorns into skin of breast. Place the breasts skin- side-down in warm skillet over medium heat with a splash of vegetable oil. Once breasts begin to take on color, turn the heat down to low, and pour off excess fat. Continue to cook breasts for approximately 10-15 minutes on skin side until fat is rendered and skin is golden and crispy. Flip breast briefly for 30-45 seconds and transport breasts from pan to small rack to rest for 5 minutes in a warm area.
For Plum Garnish:
Seed and dice plums into ¼-inch cubes. Season with salt and pepper, and toss with olive oil and scallion.
To Assemble and Serve:
Slice breast and arrange over crispy duck and potato hash cake. Place a few spoons of plum mixture over top and drizzle plum gastrique reduction on top.
Syrah, Peay Vineyards, Sonoma Coast, California, 2003