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Duck breast:: how to cook?

s
Sir Gawain Mar 16, 2004 10:47 AM

I have roasted duck but never cooked the breast alone, and now I have company coming and this MASSIVE hunk of moulard duck breast in the freezer. How would you prepare it? I'm not too concerned about side dishes (have red cabbage in mind, maybe mashed potato/celery root), but how to cook the breast itself?

Any suggestions welcome. Must be fairly easy - I tend to perform at less than my full potential when guests are coming.

  1. 4
    4Snisl Sep 30, 2010 10:11 AM

    Just a general reply, since I'm quite certain Sir Gawain has already cooked his duck....:)

    The other day, I had a beautiful duck breast to experiment with. Patted it dry, rubbed it with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and garlic. Let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours, Zuni-style.

    Then, I removed the skin. (Don't worry- I didn't throw it out!) But, I didn't want to see what would happen if I just cooked the skinless breast on its own. Seared it over medium-high heat on my gas stove till it was medium rare by touch. Let it rest.

    Then, I rendered the fat and saved it. This way I got to use the fat in the best way possible, IMHO. Had a few gribenes, but mostly had a lot of 'liquid gold' to stash in the fridge for judicious later use.

    Sliced the meat thinly over a mixed green salad with orange segments, olives and a ginger vinaigrette. Dang.....It was good.

    I always had trouble cooking the breast so that the skin is perfectly crisp while the meat is less than well-done....not even trying anymore. :)

    4 Replies
    1. re: 4Snisl
      sunshine842 Sep 30, 2010 11:31 AM

      Snisl, I found a great set of directions in "The Making Of A Chef"...sorry, I don't remember the author, as I got rid of the book (moving and didn't use it much)

      Score and season the magrets (breast filets), then put them skin-side down in a saute pan. Add water (yes, water) just to the level of the top of the layer of skin. Cook over medium heat -- the water will boil away as the fat renders gently...no burned fat.

      Let the magrets begin to brown in the rendered grease until nearly to your level of liking. Pour off all but a few teaspoons of the fat, then turn the breasts over to sear the meat side. When there's a nice golden sear on the meat side, turn them back over.

      Here's the trick part...Take a small pot lid (smaller than the diameter of your saute pan --- like a small saucepan...or a ceramic plate - and press down *hard* on the breasts, which are now skin-side down. You get a *gorgeous* crispy brown skin this way.

      Pull from the pan and let rest skin-side up (you don't want your nice crisp skin to get soggy) for 5-8 minutes or so. Deglaze the pan with a little Cognac and either use it as a pan sauce, or be ridiculously decadent and work a little butter back into the pan juices.

      Slice, sauce, and serve.

      For those who prefer their duck a little less pink in the middle (sacrilege, I know) -- I put the saucepan lid over the breasts before turning, then while they cook on the meat side...the retained heat usually takes it right to medium rare.

      1. re: sunshine842
        4
        4Snisl Sep 30, 2010 12:48 PM

        Technique sounds nice- thanks sunshine! I don't cook duck often, but I'll keep this in mind for next time....

        1. re: 4Snisl
          sunshine842 Sep 30, 2010 03:11 PM

          It's also delicious when done on the grill -- indirect heat, and a very low flame, please...and make sure you've taken the skin off first (lots of fat plus open flame = charred dinner)

        2. re: sunshine842
          sunshine842 Sep 30, 2010 10:57 PM

          Making of a Chef, by Madeline Kamman. Wasn't trying to skip giving credit; couldn't remember who wrote it!

      2. sunshine842 Sep 30, 2010 08:27 AM

        and don't you dare throw away the fat that will render from the skin. Let it cool slightly, strain it, and keep it in a glass jar in the fridge.

        A spoonful of duck fat changes fried potatoes to manna of the gods.

        (do beware the fat...the meat itself is very lean, but the skin is very fatty, and you'll have quite a lot of it in the pan.)

        1. a
          annieb Mar 17, 2004 08:10 AM

          The key to duck breast is a medium heat for the right amount of time. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat.

          As to such a large piece of duck breast, any leftovers are wonderful on top of a good salad.

          1. f
            foodfirst Mar 16, 2004 11:25 PM

            I would prepare the duck breast simple (sear/crisp on both sides in salted hot pan and then finish in the oven), slice thinly and serve with roasted lentils with root veggies. This recipe (lentils) is on the Saveur website. The combo (unadorned, perfectly cooked duck and caramelized, savory lentils and veg) is perfect.

            1. c
              Candy Mar 16, 2004 02:34 PM

              I made this last fall for a gourmet club dinner. I have no idea where the hosts got the recipe. It was very good.

              Crispy Duck Breasts
              With Pear and Green Peppercorn Sauce

              2 - 3 pounds boneless duck breasts (8 breast halves)
              2 firm-ripe Bosc pears
              1 ½ cups apple juice
              1 teaspoon cornstarch
              4 tablespoons Calvados or Armagnac
              2 tablespoons green peppercorns packed in brine, drained and lightly crushed
              2 tablespoons duck or veal demi-glace, or 1 extra-large vegetarian vegetable bouillon cube
              2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried

              Trim excess fat from duck breasts. Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until very hot. Pat duck breasts dry and season with salt. Put breasts, skin sides down, in skillet and reduce heat to moderate. Cook breasts 20 minutes, or until skin is crisp and mahogany-colored, removing fat from skillet as it is rendered. Turn breasts and cook about 2 minutes for medium-rare. Transfer breasts to plate and keep warm, covered loosely.

              While duck breasts are cooking, peel pear and cut into 1/4 –inch dice. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet and sauté pear until lightly browned, about one minute. In a measuring cup stir together apple juice and cornstarch. To pear add Calvados or Armagnac. Stir in cornstarch mixture, peppercorns, demi-glace or bouillon cube, thyme and simmer, stirring for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

              Serve duck breasts sliced with sauce spooned over them.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Candy
                e
                elk Sep 2, 2010 01:15 PM

                I know this recipe--it's originally from Gourmet Magazine. Very good!

              2. j
                jen kalb Mar 16, 2004 01:57 PM

                There is a superb recipe for broiled duck breat in Paula Wolfert's Cooking of SW France.It is also very easy.

                You marinate two whole duck breasts (skin on) for 12-24 hrs (can be longer) in the refrigerator in a rub made of 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1-1/2 tsp chopped shallots, 1 tsp chopped parsley, 1/2 tsp crumbled bay leaves, 1/4 tsp crumbled thyme, 12 crushed peppercorns, and 1 clove sliced garlic.PW then says to stack them skin side down in a covered container in the refrigerator. When the time comes to cook, wipe rub and liquid off the breasts til dry (dont have to be compulsive about getting off every last leaf and grain) and allow them to warm to room temperature. Preheat broiler set rack 4 in from heat, then score the skin side of the breasts and grill, first 1 min skin side down then about 4 min skin side up. PW instructs that the cooking will firm up the breast; if you pinch the meat, top to bottom, it will be "springy" if rare and have more give if medium. Transfer to cutting board, allow to rest for a couple minutes and slice on a diagonal as with london broil. She advises a dusting of fresh pepper before serving.

                We used to have a source of inexpensive duck breasts nearby and made this often on our grill. Not for many years, tho.

                ps. This book has several good duck recipes - highly recommended.

                4 Replies
                1. re: jen kalb
                  a
                  Aromatherapy Mar 16, 2004 02:34 PM

                  I've made this too and second the recommendation.

                  IIRC, one of her other recipes has you pan-broil the breast (as others have suggested) and deglaze with ruby port and orange juice--that's another good easy one. Don't have the details here, anybody remember?

                  1. re: jen kalb
                    s
                    Sir Gawain Mar 16, 2004 04:50 PM

                    Thanks, but I'm still a bit intimidated by my broiler (visions of charred skin)... maybe when I don't have people coming over, but I'm inexperienced both with the duck breast and the broiler = too much risk perhaps.

                    1. re: Sir Gawain
                      j
                      jen kalb Mar 16, 2004 05:19 PM

                      You could probably also use the technique in the other PW recipe that is mentioned (actually next recipe, same book)- that recipe has you scoring the skin without piercing the flesh, sauteeing in a heavy skillet 2-3 min until the skin is crisp and brown and then baking the breast in the oven at 350 for 6-7 minutes for pink meat (PW says breasts will be "just firm" when pressed with fingertip"

                      fwiw that recipe has a sauce in which 1Cruby port and juice of an orange are used to deglaze the pan and reduced to a glaze, then 1-1/3 C triple strength chicken broth is added and reduced by half, a small quantity of heavy cream is added, without stirring and then the sauce is boiled until quite reduced, seasoned and poured over the sliced duckbreast. As the poster said, that's a good treatment too, but more complicated. (note that PW salts and peppers the breasts and refrigerates 6 hrs or overnight as a prep step for this recipe too.)

                      1. re: jen kalb
                        s
                        Sir Gawain Mar 16, 2004 05:48 PM

                        Thanks Jen!

                  2. d
                    Deenso Mar 16, 2004 01:43 PM

                    Preheat the oven to 450. Score the skin and fat on the breasts in a crosshatch pattern (being careful not to pierce the flesh) and season with salt and pepper. Put the breasts, skin side down, in a hot ovenproof skillet and cook over medium heat until the skin turns golden brown. That should take somewhere between 5 and 8 minutes. Turn the breasts and put the skillet in the oven to roast for about 5 minutes for rare or a few minutes longer if you like it not quite so red. Let the meat sit for about 5 minutes before slicing it.

                    There's an interesting-looking recipe on iChef which I've linked for you. Cooking method is slightly different, but it sounds really good to me.

                    Link: http://www.ichef.com/recipe.cfm/smoci...

                    1. r
                      renee Mar 16, 2004 11:50 AM

                      i cannot give you any advice on duck breast since i've never cooked it either. BUT i can give a piece of advice that you may have heard before.

                      Never make a brand new recipe for company. If you must do this, have a back up plan, something very easy to prepare that comes together quickly. have everything you might need for plan B on hand.

                      This way, if you mess things up halfway through, you are not panicked. and if you get to the end and things are truly awful and irreparable, you can start on plan B, with hopefully not much delay in the schedule.

                      That said, best of luck and please tell us what you end up doing with the duck.
                      renee

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: renee
                        s
                        Sir Gawain Mar 16, 2004 12:02 PM

                        Ha! Thought of that and plan to purchase some nice pork chops too. I know I shouldn't try a new thing - but this is a relatively low-stress event and I can always do the chops if I have to. Problem is that I have such a huge chunk of breast that it's really for four and not for two.

                      2. m
                        margaret Mar 16, 2004 11:02 AM

                        when i cook duck breast, i just salt and pepper it, and sear it skin side down in a pan over medium heat. it takes a while but wait until the skin is really browned. then afterwards, you can either finish cooking it skin side up in the same pan or transfer it (skin side up) to the oven/broiler to cook the rest of it (i've done both). then i've made a cherry sauce and a balsamic reduction. both were good but the cherry was far better.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: margaret
                          r
                          Ruth Lafler Mar 16, 2004 12:11 PM

                          In line with what renee just said, I'd recommend finishing it in the oven. It's much easier to deal with guests if you aren't hovering over a pan on the stove.

                          I feel your pain about the "not performing well" for company -- I always think I have everything under control, and then when it comes time to eat everything descends into chaos, and my kitchen becomes a sea of pots and pans. I was really proud of myself this weekend when I avoided that by planning the menu so that I wasn't left with several dishes that all needed finishing at the last minute. Things that can be put in the oven give you more time and space, and usually more flexibility as well, since often they can be held in the warm oven for a few minutes.

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