As the temperature drops and we spend more time indoors, I like to have family and friends over for comfort food — and one of my top choices for fall/winter comfort fare is duck.
Getting the right kind of duck is important. While some people might prefer the gamey taste of Muscovy or Moulard duck, Pekin — also known as Long Island Duck — has a cleaner taste that isn’t gamey. It’s a crowd pleaser.
To render the duck fat, just take a sharp knife and score the skin in a grid pattern, going halfway through the thickness of the skin/fat but not all the way through to the meat. Then sear it on the fat side. Much of the fat will melt away, creating a crisp, brown skin. Any excess fat can be saved for another use, as the fat for a potato side dish, for example. Fat is flavor, so anything you cook in this duck fat will be delicious.
I use dried cherries and orange marmalade for this sauce, but feel free to substitute the dried fruit and marmalade of your choice. Dried figs and tangerine marmalade, for example, are wonderful.
Sear-Roasted Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Port Sauce
8 seven-ounce Long Island or Pekin duck breast halves, skin on
3 shallots, peeled and chopped finely
¾ cup ruby port
4 cups good-quality chicken stock, reduced by half to 2 cups
¾ cup dried cherries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup chopped parsley, plus more to garnish
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Trim excess fat from the edges of the duck breasts and reserve. Place the duck breasts on a work surface, skin-side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin in a grid pattern, going halfway through the thickness of the skin/fat but not all the way through to the meat. Season the skin side of the duck generously with salt.
- Make the sauce: In a large saute pan set over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of trimmed duck fat. When the fat has rendered — the skin will look shriveled and start browning — add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the port and let it reduce to a glaze. Add the reduced chicken stock, cherries, lemon zest, marmalade, cloves and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook over medium heat until the cherries are very soft, but still retain their shape, and the sauce thickens, 5 to 10 minutes. Add cream and set aside.
- Sear-roast the duck: Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the duck breasts, skin-side down, working in batches if necessary. Season the face-up side of the breast with salt. Cook until the skin is golden and much of the fat from the skin is rendered. Transfer to a sheet pan, skin-side up.
- When all the breasts have been seared, transfer the sheet pan to the oven. Cook the duck breasts for 8 to 10 minutes, until they reach medium doneness; an instant-read thermometer should register 135 to 140 degrees.
- Re-warm the sauce and add parsley. Serve the duck breast with a spoonful of the cherry-port sauce on top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.
Bibby Gignilliat is the founder of Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based culinary event company; www.PartiesThatCook.com.
Quick Cook: Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Port Sauce