Kavanaugh Boulevard has a reputation for having some of the best dining in town, and Acadia Restaurant in the Hillcrest is a big reason why. Like so many of our great chefs, Acadia’s James Hale moved away from his native Arkansas to start his culinary training, spending two years in New Orleans cutting his teeth in one of the finest food city in the United States.
Hale came back to Arkansas in 1995 and worked at Spaulé and Andre’s Hillcrest, two classic Little Rock eateries who still live on by reputation to this day. In 1999, Hale opened Acadia, and his talents have resulted in some of the best food in town. Hale’s restaurant is a classy, cozy affair, with multiple dining options available. As for the chef, Hale was the winner of the “Apprentice of the Year” award by the Arkansas ACF Chapter in 1997, and in 2008, James was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Chef of the Year in the South Region — so you can bet your biscuits he knows what’s up in the kitchen.
I received Chef Hale’s recipe for our spotlight late last week, and I had to laugh when I saw the title: Guinness-Honey Roasted Duck Breast. I hadn’t at the time what I was going to do for St. Patrick’s day, but what’s more Irish than thick, rich, delicious Guinness beer? Even if the Dublin-brewed stout is too much for you in a glass, you’ll find it adds just the right amount of dark richness to this duck dish, something even better than finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
For the duck:
*4 6-8 oz. Duck Breasts, fat on and scored
*Salt and Pepper
For the Grits:
*1 Cup Quick Grits
*2 Cups Chicken Stock
*1 Cup Heavy Cream
*1 Cup Jack Cheese
*½ Cup Butter
*1 Large Portobello Mushroom, diced and sautéed in butter
*White Truffle Oil
*1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
*Salt and Pepper
For the Sauce:
*1 Bottle Guinness, reduced by ½
*1 Cup Dijon Mustard
*1 Cup Honey
In stock pot, bring chicken stock, garlic, heavy cream, and butter to boil. Add grits, stir until smooth. Add Jack cheese, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Continue cooking until creamy and combined.
Using hot heavy pan or cast iron skillet, sear seasoned duck breast fat side down. When fat is browned, turn breast over and continue cooking. Duck may be finished to desired temperature in 400 degree oven.
Combine reduced Guinness, Dijon mustard, and honey in a bowl.
Serve sliced duck over grits with Guinness-honey mustard glaze. Use the truffle oil as garnish for the grits.