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Last minute question--how would you season duck breast with sauternes sauce?

I am planning to make duck breasts tonight and happen to have an inexpensive bottle of sauternes that I am sure will be better for cooking than drinking. Think this might be a good opportunity to use it.

Wondering if any particular herbs or spices would compliment the sauternes?

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  1. Keep it very, very simple -- just a little salt and pepper, nothing else.

    I wouldn't deglaze with the sauternes, though - -the sugar content is very high, and it will caramelize very easily.

    8 Replies
    1. re: sunshine842

      I'd agree with the simple seasoning.

      I'm also not convinced that sauternes is going to be right here unless you want to make a fairly sweet sauce. And even then, I would tend to use something like a top quality redcurrant jelly for fruity sweetness and use a red wine to give a balancing acidity.

      1. re: sunshine842

        Is it sweeter than port? I'm really not familiar with the taste of the wine (I just always see it noted as a complement to foie gras)...but I do often see port sauces with duck which is why I thought this might work.

        1. re: bte576

          Yes, it's probably sweeter than port. And doesnt have the body of it either.

          1. re: Harters

            some of the older vintages can be syrupy, too -- but OP says this was inexpensive, so it's probably not dark gold and thick.

          2. re: bte576

            yes it's far sweeter than port -- almost a sticky sweetness.

            If you have any on hand, I've had stellar luck deglazing and making a pan sauce with Cointreau or any of the various brandies (Cognac, Armagnac, etc., etc., etc)

            1. re: sunshine842

              I do also like cognac for deglazing btw.

              Sounds like the sauternes was just a bad idea. Thanks all for saving me!!

              I just found a John Besh recipe for sweet & spicy seared duck that sounds delicious and I've also done a pan sauce of shallots, port, and cherries in the past with great results. Sounds like these will be safer options! I usually go for the legs when making duck, so the breasts are more of a splurge and I don't want to mess it up.

              1. re: bte576

                I like ipse's idea, but if orange bitters are not in your house (or are not available close by, I would offer up the notion that nothing cuts sweet like heat. Adding some dried chiles will counter the stickiness the wine may create. I have a feeling that Besh's recipe works along the same lines.

                1. re: MGZ

                  but the sauternes isn't just going to *taste* sticky -- the high sugar content and high viscosity is going to make it sticky -- like gooey, if it doesn't turn into a gloppy, caramelized mess first.

        2. I would do a mixture of orange bitters and sauternes, 3:2 ratio.

          1. I'm intrigued by this post -- the first time that I've ever seen "inexpensive" and "Sauternes" in the same sentence. My first thought includes orange zest & shallots to cut the sweetness of Sauternes. Let us know what you decide, please.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Sherri

              I think orange zest is a good idea as well. I meant to mention that earlier. Thanks for the reminder.

              1. re: Sherri

                I went with the Besh recipe. Unfortunately, the meat itself seemed more strongly flavored than any duck I’ve ever made or ordered at a restaurant and we didn’t love the dish. I rendered the fat nicely and did not overcook the breasts. They were nice and tender. I think the spice blend may have accentuated the gamey flavor (star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, sugar). It wasn’t inedible by any means; it just wasn’t the meal I hoped it would be.

                Perhaps I need to start a new post on how to select duck breasts…

                As for the Sauternes, I was laughing when I found it because it was just something I knew I had a bottle of in the back of the cabinet. It was a bottom shelf/closeout purchase that I hadn’t paid much attention to—just thought I might use it for something at some point. I think saying “inexpensive” was an understatement—it was made in Ohio and was actually labeled as “Haut Sauternes”—so cheap domestic Sauternes-ish wine may have been more appropriate.

                1. re: bte576

                  Your selection of duck breasts will, obviously, be conditioned by what is available where you are. I have two basic choices. Firstly, there will be farm raised duck at the supermarket. It will be quite fatty and quite bland - not at all interesting and it needs some heavy help with seasoning. Or, second, locally shot wild duck at the farmers market. These will be much smaller, much less fatty but a wonderful taste and they just need simple cooking so as not to mask that.

                  1. re: bte576

                    well, so much for "keeping it simple" with just salt and pepper.

                    Duck is complex enough on its own that all you need to do is add a little salt and pepper to let it sing right there in the middle of its own porcelain stage.

                    This is a dish where less is definitely more.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      I guess I thought that was advice to go with the Sauternes, but I did not use it because it sounded like a less than stellar idea.

                    2. re: bte576

                      "I think the spice blend may have accentuated the gamey flavor (star anise, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, sugar)."

                      I would think such flavors would have hid any gameyness, not accentuate it. If the fowl was gamey, a simple prep would have just made it seem even more so. Personally, I prefer gamey, wild duck, but I can see how one might not.