Duck Breast 101

February 03, 2015

Nothing impresses a loved one more than cooking a gourmet dinner for two on Valentine's Day. This year, go all out with perfectly seared and succulent duck breast. Don't let that layer of delicious fat intimidate you, it's not as complicated to cook as you might think. 

We carry two varieties of duck at The Organic Butcher, the larger Moulard (pictured) that is aged for seven days on the bone and the smaller Muscovy that is thin-skinned and lower in fat.

Half the battle of duck breast is to stop thinking about it as poultry and to start thinking about it like red meat. You'll want to cook duck breast like you would a filet —seared in a pan and then finished in the oven. Score the fat with a sharp knife, salt the breast, and then let it rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before cooking.  

Both Muscovy and Moulard should be cooked fat side down first over medium heat. For the larger Moulard, no added fat is needed in the pan. If cooking Muscovy, you'll want to add butter or olive oil before searing. The key to cooking duck breast successfully is making sure to cook the fat layer long enough. Let it sizzle slowly until the fat is golden brown. Plan on anywhere from 6-10 minutes depending on the size off the breast.

Once golden and crispy, flip the breasts over. For the smaller varieties, you may only need to cook through to desired done-ness (we recommend medium-rare to medium). For the larger Moulard, move the pan to the oven and finish on 375.

As with steak, let the breasts rest for about 5 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to reincorporate.

Serve the duck as is or with the following Cherry Port Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 8 halved pitted sweet red cherries, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons tawny Port
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
  • 1 tablespoon butter

After searing the duck breasts, pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add shallot to skillet and stir over medium heat 30 seconds. Add broth, cherries, Port, and honey. Increase heat to high and boil until sauce is reduced to glaze, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the duck alongside a salad and wild rice. That's it, a no-fuss but highly impressive meal!

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