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Duck breasts -- how do you prepare them?

I rarely cook duck, but this weekend I bought a couple of moulard magret duck breast halves and made a duck and mushroom ragu with tagliatelle that was perhaps one of the most delicious dishes I've ever made. So now I'm wondering about other ways to use these duck breasts. What are your favorites?

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  1. We had this duck breast with Earl Grey tea recipe for Christmas dinner and it was fabulous. Read some of the reviews (ie leave the tea in the bags):
    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    4 Replies
    1. re: waver

      That sounds absolutely delicious! What did you serve along with the duck?

      1. re: CindyJ

        Brussels sprouts, wild rice, and a dish my Mom makes that cooks julienned carrot, parsnip and turnip in orange juice. And cranberry sauce because of the season, but it was probably unnecessary as the sauce is so ridiculously good

        Did you have a recipe for the ragu or was it an invention? It sounds great.

        1. re: waver

          My recipe wasn't exactly an invention; it's more or less a hybrid of two similar recipes, one from Molly Stevens' "All About Braising" and the other from Marc Vetri's "Il Viaggio di Vetri." The idea of using the immersion blender to puree the vegetables and thicken the sauce comes from my experience with brisket gravy.

          Duck and Mushroom Ragu with Tagliatelle

          Serves 4 to 6

          INGREDIENTS

          2 duck breasts (D’Artagnan Moulard Magret duck)
          Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
          2 TB olive oil
          2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
          1 large onion, coarsely chopped
          2 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
          3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
          1 cup red wine (Chianti, Zinfandel, Rioja, Barbera are all good)
          1 28-oz. can of plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, crushed
          2 rosemary sprigs
          2 cups chicken stock
          1 lb. assorted mushrooms, quartered or thickly sliced, sautéed in butter and/or olive oil
          2-3 TB grated Parmesan Reggiano
          1 lb. Tagliatelle or Pappardelle

          PREPARATION

          1. Preheat oven to 325°
          2. Score the outer skin and fat of the duck in a crosshatch pattern
          3. Season both sides of the duck with salt and pepper
          4. Heat the oil in an ovenproof saucepan or heavy braising pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the duck pieces, skin side down, and cook, turning as needed, for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides. Remove most of the fat from the pan.
          5. Add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic to the pan and sauté until lightly browned. Add the wine and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the fond. Simmer for two or three minutes to reduce slightly.
          6. Add the tomatoes, stock and rosemary to the pan and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add the duck pieces in one layer. Cover the pot, place it in the oven and roast for 1½ to 2 hours, until the duck meat is tender. Remove from oven, uncover and let the duck cool slightly in the braising liquid. Remove duck from liquid and set aside.
          7. Skim excess fat off the surface of the liquid. Remove rosemary stems. Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables in the liquid. The mixture should be the consistency of tomato sauce. If it’s too thin, simmer it until it reduces and thickens slightly.
          8. Remove the skin and excess fat from the duck. Shred the duck meat. Return the meat to the sauce.
          9. Add the sautéed mushrooms to the sauce and stir to combine. Simmer gently for 5 minutes.
          10. Prepare tagliatelle as directed on the package. When pasta is ready, drain, reserving about 1 cup of the water. Add the pasta to the ragu and toss until well combined. Sprinkle with parmesan. If the ragu is too thick, add a little of the pasta water. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.

          1. re: CindyJ

            I'm not as big a fan of duck breast as duck legs. I think they would be great in this dish. Thanks.

    2. I like to sear them and then stick them in a low oven (250 or so) and bring them up just to above rare. You have lots of control that way. I'm not a big fan of syrupy sweet toppings (your ragu sounds amazing!) but I might slice up some fresh apples and roast them along with the duck.

      Don't forget to save the fat that renders from those breasts. I keep it in the freezer. I'm amazed at how many dishes, from hash browns to grass-fed meatloaf, are improved with the addition of a tiny bit of duck fat.

      Happy cooking and please report back!
      JeremyEG
      homecooklocavore.com

      6 Replies
      1. re: JeremyEG

        I actually had a question about the rendered duck fat while I was pan searing the breasts. Before searing, I seasoned the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Does this seasoning have any effect on the rendered fat, or make it less-than-desirable in any way?

        Also, what would be the optimal internal temperature to have them "just above rare"?

        1. re: CindyJ

          I think the fat will be fine with salt and pepper. I cook my duck breasts to 120 or so and check with a meat thermometer. Let them sit for a few minutes and then slice. Yum.
          JeremyEG
          homecooklocavore.com

          1. re: JeremyEG

            I agree wholeheartedly with searing and slicing, but I find that a tart, acidy sauce is needed to cut through the greasiness of the meet. I made a nice pomegranate and spice reduction that worked well with duck breasts once.

            1. re: anthony.izzo

              Duck meat itself is quite lean. It's the skin that has the fat.

              1. re: anthony.izzo

                I had something like that at a restaurant by me last time I made I made a blood orange cilantro carlic reduction was also really good. My question has anyone tried duck like brick chicken with a weight when searing duck breast might be an interesting idea.

                1. re: clint1245

                  not with a weight , but I've used a smaller pan lit to press it while cooking. Madeleine Kamman's "Making of a Cook" details it.

        2. Duck breast is one of my favourite things - EVER. My favourite preparations usually include a Port/Sherry/Brandy/Wine sauce, maybe with a stick of cinnamon. I also like to serve with glazes (Calvados maple) or gastrique (i.e. blueberry or Saskatoon). Another involves a white wine sauce with morels.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chefathome

            Do you have recipes for any of those that you can share?

            1. re: CindyJ

              This one is delicious - you'll love it! Duck Breasts in Pink Peppercorn Sauce (it has pears, pear brandy, red wine, etc.). Wait a minute - it won't post for some dumb reason. Anyway, just go to Foodista.com and look under above title.

              EDIT - got it to work. http://www.foodista.com/recipe/TQGXK4...

          2. Seared as already described is the most common application.

            Seared and then finished in a salt crust as per André Daguin, who first invented the magret.

            Skinned and cooked sous-vide in duck fat and butter before a flash sear and service with duck skin cracklings.

            Duck prosciutto.

            Duck carpaccio.

            Tartar.

            Slow roast in five-spice (this fully cooks the breast so you better know what you're doing).

            Tacos (in hindsight, this was a just little wrong).

            1 Reply
            1. re: wattacetti

              Oh, of course - prosciutto and carpaccio! Delectable. Have yet to try tartare.

              Another thing I love to serve with duck breast is my homemade apple jelly.

            2. I do a Raspberry Duck, from Laura Calder of the Foodnetwork. It's really tasty and easy.

              3 Replies
              1. re: maxandrick

                Do you have a link to the recipe?

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Go to the Food Network, Canada website. You'll find her there, with all her recipes.

              2. When cooking duck breasts medium rare to serve with a pan sauce, I prefer a different method than the typical searing over high heat for a few minutes and turning, then either allowing a few more minutes in the pan or popping in the oven. I like to score the skin and fat in a cross-hatch pattern, season, then cook skin-side down over no more than medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the fat has really rendered out and the skin is nice and crisp, then turn and cook for just a couple of minutes. The slower cooking lets more fat render and makes the skin crisper.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  I learned that method here -- maybe from you! -- and I agree that it's even better than the high heat method. And to the OP, no, the salt and pepper do not negatively affect the wonderful rendered duck fat (which by the way keeps more or less indefinitely in the freezer).

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    Yes -- I like that method too, which I think I learned from Goin:

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3970...

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I think I picked it up from a James Peterson book.

                    2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      I do this too--based on a technique from The Herbfarm Cookbook. I think Jerry Traunfeld is brilliant. I usually season with an harb and orange zest rub/crust and finish with a cherry pan sauce. and the seasoning does nothing bad to the duck fat!

                    3. I recently made some duck breast confit (in addition to legs, wings, gizzards, etc.), and I would not do it again: The breast meat is lean enough that it is not nearly as tasty as duck leg confit. Not unpleasant...but just not as good.

                      1. You can also skin them, season, and grill them over *indirect* heat...yum.

                        but make sure the skin has been removed, or you'll have the grease fire from hell.

                        1. I also sear in a cast iron skillet and finish in a 275 degree oven. Before the sear I will marinate with garlic, ginger, scallion and usually tamari and a bit of worcestershire. (hope I spelled correctly ) I put chopped mushrooms and onions in the skillet after searing, the fat cooks them just right. Also not a fan of syrupy sauces and glazes.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: CCSPRINGS

                            Hmm, this is quite timely, as I was thinking of doing magret this weekend. The first time I ever made duck breast (in fact, I think it was the first time I ever ate it!) was in France. I did it with a honey-dijon glaze in the usual way, and I was blown out of my socks . . . it was better than the finest filet mignon I'd ever had, anywhere.

                            I'm not sure if it was because it was a FRENCH duck breast, but I made a similar one here in Montreal and somehow it just didn't taste as good.

                            But this weekend I was thinking of doing some kind of shiitake/pleurot mushroom sauce, maybe with a little cream and brandy, then serving scalloped potatoes and haricots fins as side dishes . . . I have a strategy in mind, but do you think the whole combination would work? How should I go about doing the sauce? Tarragon, maybe? Pastis instead of brandy? Too ambitious?

                            1. re: tonbo0422

                              Your sauce idea sounds amazing. I would go light on the cream at first only because I never tried that combo of favors and I would expect the mushrooms to give up plenty of liquid.

                            2. re: Jerry_K

                              Hot skillet. Score the fat and cook fat side first, brown both sides.

                              1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                Give the cold skilet method a chance and try it. Trust me, you will never go back to traditional hot method. I am hooked on it.

                                1. re: Jerry_K

                                  I will give it a go. Duck has become plentiful in recent years. Five years ago you only saw it around the holidays, now it is a staple. I assume the cold skillet will work just fine with a leg as well.

                                  1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                    Leg is a dark meat and needs lot of time to roast. This method is strictly duck breast. Just like leg is great for ponfit but breast is an awfull waste of great meat. This is the reason that I do not roast whole duck any more.

                            3. I score 'em, season 'em with salt and pepper, sear 'em in a frying pan and finish 'em in the oven. Then I prepare a trio of mushrooms - sauteed with thyme and a little red wine, then serve the breasts sliced topped with the mushrooms.

                              1. oh, never mind, you posted the recipe above already. thanks!

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                  Okay, so I'm going to try the hot sear/finish in oven method, then use the pan juices (after poiuring off the fat) with a little cream (as CC pointed out -- there'll be plenty of fat already!) with fresh tarragon and pastis (flavor twins!) and shiitakes and pleurots with a dab of butter.

                                  BTW, no one has mentioned saving the duck fat for another purpose! Yum!

                                  1. re: tonbo0422

                                    I made johnny cakes with the fat during the last snow storm. I also share the fat with the dog.

                                    I woke up to at least 12" of snow this AM.