Duck is one of my very favourite meats and certainly my favourite form of fowl. I know some people have the same aversion to this fine feathered creature as they do to lamb, rabbit, and venison — the four of which would be my holy trinity of proteins if they weren’t actually a quartet. I know that some might think it ‘gamey’ even if they got past the animal itself. I’m not going to convince you to love duck or tell you that you’re wrong — but if you have an open mind to trying it and/or want the experience of making this tried and tested duck breast in your own home, then the answer to “how” follows.
Yes, this is the third duck recipe I’ve posted, each with a different and somewhat seasonal sauce. Yes, I might have a small cookbook devoted to duck in the works one day, but for now, here’s a dish made for New Year’s eve and your special person at home … or a great New Year’s Day dinner with family. But given the the general availability of blackberries, you can make this any time of year and because it will only take you three-quarters of an hour from stop to finish, you can easily make this any night of the week which makes it a favourite for that last-minute dinner party you don’t know you’re having yet ….
The recipe is pretty straightforward and the steps pretty simple. The sauce is really a blackberry coulis that is recooked and ‘naturally’ sweetened with the Chambord liqueur. If you don’t know Chambord liqueur, you’re about to. It’s a delicious, not too sweet and not too strong (i.e. boozy) raspberry spirit which I personally love cooking with in many recipes. The blackberries I thought would be an awesome pairing being of their natural tartness which would play off the richness of the duck … but the berries, at least this time of year, are too tart to go on their own, so I simply used the liqueur as the sweetener. Easy, peasy.
The duck itself? Well, you may follow the recipe carefully a few times, but once you’ve done it once or twice, you’ll see how ridiculously easy it is. It’s really no harder than cooking a really good steak — and who needs a recipe for that, right? The secret is scoring the duck to allow the fat to ‘melt’ off the skin and cook the meat; the secret to this, is low direct heat which melts the fat and and allows the skin to cook at the same rate as the meat without burning the skin or leaving too much fat on the breast. This is then followed with indirect but high heat in the oven to finish with a slight rest at the end before carving. That’s it … but if you don’t trust me, read the recipe and follow the steps and enjoy.
Here’s hoping that 2015 brings to each of us our own wishes of prosperity, health, family, and love. Happy New Year.
- 2x half-pound (250g) duck breasts with skin-on
- Avocado or olive oil to coat the duck
- Kosher Salt
- Sprinkling of paprika
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 8-10 large black berries
- 1/2 cup (125mL) water
- 1/2 cup (125mL) Chambord liqueur
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) apple cider vinegar
- pinch ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).[br]
- Start the sauce by rinsing the blackberries and placing them in a small saucepan with a 1/2 cup of water. It should come up about half way up the berries. Note, the water really has no other purpose than to poach so adjust as necessary.
Turn water up to medium and bring to a light simmer. Once the heat hits the berries, they’ll start to change colour.
and after about 12-15 minutes, the water should be about half evaporated and the berries will be plump and mushy.
Transfer berries to a medium mesh strainer (just big enough to capture the seeds) and place over a medium glass/ceramic bowl (something that one stain). Using the back of a spoon or spatula, press and work the berries through the strainer, capturing the seeds in the strainer.
Return the now strained blackberry sauce back to the saucepan and add the cinnamon and the 1/2 cup of Chambord liqueur and the apple cider vinegar.
Bring sauce back to a simmer for about 15 minutes until the alcohol has cooked off and sauce is consistency of a light maple syrup.
Remove from heat while you finish the duck. You can quickly ‘heat’ the sauce again when the duck is ‘resting.’
- Meanwhile and while the berries are just poaching above, begin to prepare the duck. Start by washing the duck beasts under cold water and then patting them dry on a paper towel. Then, taking an extremely sharp knife carefully score the the duck skin on the diagonal, opening up the fat, but not so deep as to nick the meat. Keep your ‘lines’ about 1/4-inch (1-cm) apart. Repeat by scoring diagonally in the opposite direction so that you have ‘diamonds’ in the skin.
→ Note: “Opening up” the skin is essential to allowing the skin to crisp as this will allow the fat to melt off leaving it perfectly crisp and the duck itself moist.
Tip: If you don’t have a sharp knife (though you should), you can achieve this with a razor blade.
- Lightly rub the breasts with oil (this will help spices to stick) and season both sides with duck breasts with salt, pepper and paprika …
And place the breasts in a large (non-stick) frying pan that can be be placed in the oven.[br]
- Begin cooking the duck in the pan cold, skin-side down — I know starting meat cold in a pan is unconventional, but trust me, this will start the fat melting and provide oil in the pan to start the process.[
Turn heat to medium and set your timer to 10 minutes. Once you hear the duck fat start to melt in about a minute, immediately reduce to medium-low (or a bit lower if you can) and continue cooking. After a few more minutes, the duck fat will start to well-up around the breast. Carefully spoon this over the breast, basting it in the process. [
After 10 minutes, use a pair of tongs to check under the breast for ‘doneness.’ The breasts will have ‘puffed’ up in the process: this is normal. You want it a dark golden to slightly light-brown. If necessary, fry for another 2-5 minutes depending on doneness and your preferred outcome, however, don’t overcook or burn the skin. Remember, every breast is different; every cook top is different, so judge with your eyes.
When ready, you tongs to flip the breasts onto the meat-side and cook for another minute.
Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and roast for 5 minutes (for rare) or [b]6-7 minutes for medium to medium-rare[/b] or 8-9 minutes (for medium-well).
Remove pan from oven and let the duck rest and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
- Remove breasts to cutting board …
… and cut them into roughly 1/2-inch (1-cm) medallions.
- Plate the duck, garnish with a couple of fresh berries, and serve with a couple of tablespoons of blackberry-Chambord sauce.
Wine Pairing: So many pairings are awesome with this. A great but not young Pinot Noir; a meaty Ripasso would be a great choice as well; and my personal favourite is a petite sirah like this from Bogle which I reviewed recently.
What do you do with the apple cider vinegar?
Hi Mike — sorry about that omission. I’ve fixed the instructions. The vinegar is added at the same time as the Chambord. Best of luck to you. Let me know how it turns out for you and how you like it.
This looks fantastic. I believe I could prepare it but VASTLY prefer to enjoy it at the hands of a professional. My mouth is watering! Happy New Year to all eating at your home!
Thank you so much. I agree with you whole heatedly that there are things that I could make at home (like sushi) that have no desire to ever try my hand at making … simply because I love the pleasure of going out and enjoying someone else do this for me. It remains a treat for me as a result. Happy New Year to you as well and thanks for your kind comment.
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at duck and I think, with these instructions, I just may take the plunge – if… I can actually find duck in my neck of the woods.
One question: is the non-stick pan essential? I have oven-proof pans but not one that is non-stick. Should I add that to the shopping list too?
That is great to hear, Maya. I hope you can find the duck. It’s more and more common all the time, but if you can’t find it, ask your butcher if they can purvey it for you. If you have more questions on what you’re sourcing, let me know and I’d be happy to describe that in more detail.
As for the pan, no, the non-stick isn’t essential. A traditional cast iron pan would work as well, if it is seasoned well. What you don’t want to happen is for the duck breast to stick, on either side and then ‘tear’ when you flip it. The skin, especially scored like this, is quite tender. If you have a pan that you’ve used for pan-frying steaks or pork chops (without them sticking), then that will be fine. Good luck to you and let me know how it all turns out for you, please.