Duck Breast

Duck BreastIf you are looking for something memorable for dinner either for a special event or for a romantic dinner for two, a beautiful duck breast can be an elegant alternative to a filet mignon.

Most of the duck available in the American market comes from the Pekin (also known as Long Island) breed which is a small fatty duck with a reasonable price tag. However, in recent years, the Muscovy duck, which is a larger more lean variety, has become more readily available and popular despite its higher price tag.

While you can find whole ducks on the market, it is more common to find them broken down into pieces like legs and breasts because of the versatility of using smaller pieces.

Duck meat is unique from other poultry in that duck only has dark meat. This means that the duck breasts should be treated more like a steak. It can be cooked to a lower internal temperature than other birds like chicken and duck is ideally served rare to medium-rare. Unlike other red meats, duck breasts are leaner and have less saturated fat.

Duck breasts are best prepared sautéed over medium heat, starting with the scored skin side down, so that the fat has time to render making the meat deliciously moist and the skin becomes wonderfully crispy.

Pan-Seared Duck Breast Recipe
Yields 4 servings
This is a straightforward and simple recipe. You start by scoring the skin and then cooking the breast slowly so the fat can render away. Just don’t skip the demi-glace—it’s the secret ingredient to this dish!

2 duck breasts (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 shallots, minced
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ruby port
1 cup red wine
2 cups chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup store-bought demi-glace

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Prepare the duck breast
Carefully score the skin of the duck breast in a tight (about 1/8-inch) crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife. Make certain you don’t cut all the way through to the meat. Pat the duck dry with paper towels and let it come to room temperature while you prepare the glaze.

Prepare the glaze
In a medium pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat until simmering. Add the shallots, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add the red port and wine and raise the heat to high. Cook until it has reduced by half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the stock and cook until the liquid has reduced by half (about 8 to 10 minutes).

Render the fat
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over low heat. Season the duck with salt and pepper. Place it in the pan, skin-side-down, and cook until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep brown and crispy. To keep the edges from curling up, press duck breasts down with the help of a smaller sauté pan. After about 5 minutes, the fat should begin to gently bubble. If the fat is either silent or spitting, adjust heat accordingly. Maintain the gentle bubble of fat, pouring out excess rendered fat throughout the cooking process, until much of the fat has rendered, the skin is golden brown, (about 8 to 10 minutes).

Finish by roasting the duck
Flip the duck over so it is skin-side-up and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until medium-rare (about 8 to 10 minutes).

Reduce the glaze
While the duck is baking, add the demi-glace to the pan with the reduced wine mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook slowly until the sauce has thickened (about 7 to 9 minutes). Remove from the heat.

Carve and serve the duck
Transfer the duck to a carving board and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Halve the breasts on an angle, and serve half a breast per plate with the reserved glaze.

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