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[Photograph: Johnny Miller]

It'd be a shame to pass over a described as a "masterpiece." Full stop. In Secrets of the Best Chefs, Adam Roberts is totally enamored of Melissa Clark's recipe development process. And his adoration is most evident in his headnote to Clark's recipe for Seared Duck Breast with Garam Masala and Grapes. It's a relatively simple recipe (duck breast gets an hour-long rest with garam masala and salt before being seared, finished in the oven, and topped with a pan sauce of grapes, cinnamon, and balsamic vinegar) with show-stopping results.

Why I picked this recipe: Duck breasts + warm Indian spices + sautéed grapes = major win.

What worked: Garam masala, cinnamon, and grapes is a winning combination, especially with rich, funky duck.

What didn't: Eaten without the sauce, the duck was a bit salty. Pull back a little on the seasoning if you're sensitive. I'd also tweak my searing method next time around and start in a cold pan. This way the fat would have more of a chance to render before burning the skin.

Suggested tweaks: As Roberts states in the headnote, this recipe would be equally lovely with cherries. And if you're not a fan of warm spices with duck, go ahead and play around with a spice rub of your choice.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Secrets of the Best Chefs to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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