Thursday, February 24, 2011

Man Can Cook #8 - Pan Seared Duck Breast & Cherry Balsamic Sauce

Duck is usually something that gets my attention on a menu but I don't make it very often at home. I should though. It's not particularly difficult, but I think some folks are leery of the idea of cooking a bird to a level of anything short of "well done". Relax, it's duck, not chicken. There is no where near the risk of illness with under-cooking duck as there is with chicken. 

This is a pretty darned easy preparation, and tasty too if I do say so, that is sure to impress.

1 large Duck Breast at room temp (with skin & fat, two breasts if you are serving more than 2 people)
1 medium shallot (very finely chopped)
1tbsp finely chopped garlic
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup quality Balsamic vinegar (from Modena or its rubbish)
1 ½ cup chicken stock
2tpbs butter
2tbsp finely chopped sage + 3-4 extra leaves for presentation
1tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
2-3 cups of field greens

Medium Cast Iron pan (yes I use it for nearly everything)
Metal tongs
High quality silicon oven mitt

Step 1) Heat oven to 400deg. Score the skin of the duck breast in a criss-cross pattern scores should be ~1/2” apart. Season the breast on both sides with salt/pepper and set aside.

Step 2) In a small saucier heat your oil then begin cooking your shallot, cherries and garlic until you begin to see some carmelization develop on the cherries and the bottom of the pan.

Step 3) Add balsamic vinegar and deglace the pan. Continue cooking at medium heat until vinegar is almost completely reduced.

Step 4) Add chicken stock and all but a pinch of chopped sage, reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for ~15min. Sauce should reduce by ~1/2. 

Step 5) While sauce is simmering, heat an oven safe skillet (cast iron) over med heat. Once up to temp place duck breast, skin side down, into the pan and cook for ~10 min without turning the breast until the skin is crispy and nearly all the fat is rendered out. 

Pour off fat and put the skillet, with the breast now skin side up, in the oven for ~8-10 min until cooked to medium. Its duck, not chicken so don’t worry about it being red in the middle. Then remove from the pan to a cutting board, tent with foil and allow it to rest for 5min. If you are using a temp probe or meat thermometer shoot for an internal temp of about 122 which should get you to roughly 125-127 after resting, otherwise use the touch method. The feel of a medium rare duck breast is just about the same as for beef.

Step 6) While the duck is resting, add remaining sage and butter to mount the sauce and remove from the heat.

Step 7) Thinly slice the duck breast across the grain of the meat. If you guessed right on the timing it should be cooked to “medium” with a warm, but still red center. Lay the slices of breast over ~1 cup of your field greens, place a couple of sage leaves atop that, then drizzle a bit of your cherries and sauce over that.

I served it with a pretty basic risotto with a fist full of morrell mushrooms added to the stock to up the "earthiness" factor to match the strong flavor of the duck. The recipe for the risotto can be found here:

The risotto takes the majority of your time and attention. Make sure you get all of your prep, cutting & measurement done before you begin. You don’t want to muck up the risotto because you were paying attention to chopping shallots.

Get your cherry sauce started and simmering while you are sweating the veg for the risotto.

Start the duck breast once you cover the risotto and take it off the heat.

Garnish the risotto with a drizzle of olive oil & some finely chopped Italian parsley which I had not yet done when I took the photo above.

Enjoy, and let me know how it comes out!!

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