When asked to cook for a Small Bites video, Chapel Grille executive chef Jules Ramos knew it had to be for duck.

"People always ask me how to cook duck. It's just an unknown to them," he said. "People get intimidated and they overcook or undercook it. Most don’t know how to deal with it."

He took the mystery away and shared the techniques needed to cook duck and make duck tacos, or any kind of taco for that matter. He shared his Salsa Macha sauce recipe, too.

His easy recipe for preparing and cooking a duck breast starts with removing the silver skin. Next, turn the breast over and score that side by making shallow cuts. This prevents the duck from shrinking, gives it room to render the fat and produces a crispier piece of meat. Salt and pepper it before cooking. Simply salt the other side where you removed the silver skin.

Never cook duck in any kind of grease or oil. There is enough fat generated from the duck for cooking. Just lower the temperature to cook. Cook duck to 125-130 degrees then let it rest before serving or slicing.

For the Salsa Macha, Jules has suggested dried chili peppers but said any ones are fine. You want the dried chili to give the sauce its color so don't hydrate the peppers but saute them as-is. You can also use ancho chile powder.

Let the sauce simmer on low heat until the chiles are tender and it turns bright red. Then it goes into the blender to finish. Jules adds sesame seeds and chopped roasted peanuts before serving to add texture, but it's completely optional.

Right now Chapel Grille is featuring beef tacos but he plans to put duck tacos on his upcoming spring menu.

This Mini Duck Tacos recipe is the latest of The Providence Journal’s cooking videos called Small Bites, created in collaboration with GoProvidence.com and shot in a demonstration kitchen at Hope & Main, the food-business incubator in Warren.

Mini Duck Tacos

8  4-inch flour tortillas
4 duck breasts
Slices of fresh avocado
3 radishes, sliced thin
2 scallions, sliced thin on a bias
¼ cup Salsa Macha (see recipe)
8 sprigs cilantro
Pickled shallots (see recipe)

To prepare the duck:

  • With a sharp knife, remove all of the silver skin on the flesh side of the breast. Trim off the excess skin all around. 
  • Flip the breast over onto the board so that the skin side is up. Carefully score the skin in a crisscross pattern about 1/8-inch apart. Season the skin side with salt only. Flip the breast back over and season the flesh side with salt and pepper.
  • Put the duck breasts skin side down in a cold frying pan over medium heat. Do NOT use oil. Start to render off the fat.
  • Sear the breast until crispy. Flip the breast over only when the skin side is golden brown. Once you flip the breast over, cook to medium-medium rare only. It should take only 1–2 minutes depending on the thickness. 
  • Remove the breast to a paper towel-lined plate to rest for 5 to 7 minutes prior to slicing thin.

Pickled Shallots

¼ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup water
3 shallots, sliced very thin
1 clove garlic, smashed with the side of the knife
1 bay leaf
10 peppercorns
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
6 coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon mustard seeds

  • Put the vinegar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil.
  • Put the other ingredients into a jar then pour the hot liquid over. Refrigerate once it comes to room temperature.

Salsa Macha

2 tablespoons canola oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 ancho chili peppers, stems and seeds removed 
2 Guajillo peppers, stems and seeds removed
2 chipotle peppers with adobo
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup peanuts, roasted and chopped fine
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

  • In a pan over medium heat, add the oil then caramelize the garlic and shallots.
  • Add the chilies, vinegar, water and oil then lower the heat to low. Simmer the sauce until the chilies are tender. 
  • Put the mixture into a food processor and pulse until well blended. Add the sesame seeds, peanuts and rest of the ingredients and mix to blend only. You want the salsa to be chunky. 
  • Chill completely until ready to use.

To assemble the tacos:

  • Using a pair of metal tongs, warm the tortillas over a range flame or in the microwave for 30 seconds. 
  • Put salsa matcha on each tortilla.
  • Divide the duck slices evenly among the tortillas. Add some avocado slices then top with scallions, cilantro sprigs, scallions and sliced radishes.  Add a little of the pickled shallots on top. 
  • Serve with a bowl of salsa matcha.

Makes 8 tacos