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Mar 16, 2004 10:47 AM

Duck breast:: how to cook?

  • s

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.

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  1. 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

      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.

    2. 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.

      1 Reply
      1. re: renee

        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. 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.


        1. 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

            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

              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

                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.)

            2. 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

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