How to cook deboned duck breast to render out (most of the) fat?
Hi - I have the breasts from one Long Island duck that have been quartered, with skin and fat attached under each quarter.
What is the best way to render out most of the fat and then how would you finish them? (What about on a rack over a pan in a low oven for some time? If so, how low - and skin side down or meat side down?)
Quick deep-frying is an option for finishing, as is pan-frying (would love to crisp the skin). As are whatever other methods you suggest.
Score the skin in a cross-hatch pattern, heat a little oil in a pan over high heat, place the breast in the pan skin-side down, reduce heat to medium or mediun high, cook until skin/fat is at desired crispness. Turn over and cook to desired wellness (I'd go about medium rare - it is not like chicken, so it need not be cooked well, unless that is how you want it).
Reserve the fat for confit (use the legs and thighs) or general cooking - it is great with pan sauted potatos.
I'm with Babette, but I have achieved the best results by starting in a cold pan.
After trimming the breasts and scoring the skin (just because it hasn't been written here I though I'd mention- score the skin, not the flesh- you don't want to see the red) and seasoning, I place the breasts in a cold pan with planty of space between them. I then turn the heat to medium and leave them alone except to pour off the excess fat. They release themselves when the skin crisps- that is to say when most of the fat has rendered outand has efectively deepfried the skin. I then turn the heat to med-high, brown the flesh side, then pop the whole thing into a 400 degree oven until medium rare- which I judge by touch but is about 135-140 on a thermometer.
As for the rest of your questions, Cinnamon, Pan frying and deep frying are no the best cooking methods because deep frying would overcook the breasts well before the fat rendered out from beneath the skin, and panfrying just is adding more fat to the fire, such as it were- the duck will release enough of its own fat without having to add much to the pan- maybe a tablespoon at most. Rendering duckfat is easy, but keeping and collecting it takes some meditation. If you just use the fat that renders from the cooking process, it will likely be seasoned and have some juices mixed into it- though ths tastes good, salt breaks down fats and the juices may spoil or give the fat an off flavor. This fat is definitely useable for several days after you render it, but won't last forever. To render pure duck fat, take all of the skin and fat you can trim from the carcass and put it in a sauce pot over LOW heat with just enough water to cover. The fat will renderout of the skin and eventually the water will evaporate away as steam. When the skin pieces begin to brown, they are basically deepfrying in their own fat (cracklings! yum!)- I usually pour off my fat at this point- I don't want the fat to brown and I don't want the skin to stick to my pot (man, is THAT hard to clean out!). I usually finish the crackings in the oven and get the fat into the freezer to chill quickly.
You can certainly oven roast your quarters- if you cook them in the oven on a rack, 325, skin side up for about 45 minutes ought to just about do it- pierce the skin (but not the flesh) with a fork or crosshatch the skin- either will allow the fat to drain but won't deepfry the meat. Because the fat will be draining past the meat, you won't have to baste it.
I won't lie to you- I have stuck a duck breast or two when I started, but in my continued experience, if you just go low and slow, the rendering fat will deepfry the skin and cause a natural release. The ever-so-hard law is - DON'T TOUCH IT!
In commercial kitchens (that I didn't have to clean)- I like to start with a bit of oil in a warm pan (med-low) but there just winds up being a bit of spatter. I started my cold pan practice while rendering bacon for soups- I let the bacon slowly render while assembling the rest of the ingredients- like with the duck breast, the fat puddles around the meat and slowly deep-fry crisps it.
Remove the skin and fat from the duck breast. Preheat oven to 325°F.
Place duck skin/fat between two sheets of aluminum foil on rimmed baking sheet.
Roast until skin is crisp; between 35 minutes to one hour.
Remove from hot foil, the rendered duck fat drains onto rimmed baking sheet. Reserve rendered duck fat.
When the crisp skin has cooled, break skin and place onto cutting board, sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, and black pepper. Chop into small shreds with sharp chef's knife to make 'Duck Crust' and sprinkle onto duck dishes for additional texture and sweetness.
Skinless duck breast; seared, pan-roasted, smoked, grilled or poached (eight minutes) in a beurre blanc. Medium-rare.
I actually steam the breasts for about 10 minutes before pan-searing, it gets rid of the extra fat (though you can't save that part of the fat). This is kind of a version of the Alton Brown "Mighty Duck" but I usually only buy the breasts alone - too much trouble to thaw & then cut apart the duck.