Duck, duck, no goose
December 23, 2013 10:18 AM   Subscribe

So, I got a couple duck breasts for our Christmas Eve supper, and was hoping for any and all helpful hints on how to prepare them.

I have cooked duck breast before, with varying degrees of success, but I'd like this to be a nice, simple, yet yummy and flavorful meal. Grilling is optimum, although I'd entertain other ideas...sides are gonna be boiled potatoes, and asparagus tips with crumbled feta.
posted by PlantGoddess to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Christmas dinner twinsies!

We're going to use the pan-roasted duck breast recipe from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home.
posted by peripathetic at 10:37 AM on December 23, 2013

The hot-smoked duck ham recipe from Ruhlman's Charcuterie has never let us down. We've made it 4 or 5 times, usually by putting the duck breasts on the top rack of the grill at a low temperature with an aluminum foil packet of wood chips as close to the flame as possible. You'd have to get started now (and possibly pick up a few ingredients for the brine), but it's worth the effort. The recipe is simple, it just requires a lot of passive time during the brining and resting stages.
posted by jedicus at 10:45 AM on December 23, 2013

Duck a la Alton Brown.
posted by chasles at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is the very simplest method:

Score the skin of the breast, into the fat. Don't cut the flesh.

Season the breast liberally with salt and pepper.

Sear skin side down (ideally in cast iron) in a nice hot pan until the skin is becoming crispy and the fat is rendering out. Flip, put pan into a 350F oven until duck evenly rare. Remove from oven, add a large knob of butter and a sprig of rosemary, and baste until just barely past rare. Remove from heat and rest to medium rare. Eat.

(I wouldn't grill duck, it is far too fatty and will cause major flares)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:05 AM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Not grilling, but delicious.

Lay them fat-side up on a cutting board and cut them in half width-wise (so you have two short pieces. Lightly score the fat in +/- 3/4" diamond-shapes (i.e., gently run a very sharp knife across the fat at 3/4" intervals, rotate 90 degrees, and repeat). Salt and pepper all sides generously, and allow to come to room temperature, at least 45 minutes.

Over a high flame, heat a cast-iron skillet to just smoking. Sear the breasts, fat-side down, for about 2-3 minutes, then turn and cover. Cook until rare or medium-rare, rest fat-side up, and slice as seen in this photo of a dinner I made this summer. Fan slices on the plate, drizzle with thick aged balsamic vinegar or pomegranate molasses, and serve.

ETA: Or basically what fffm just said. And yeah, I wouldn't grill because I'd want to reserve the duck fat for later use.
posted by gauche at 11:07 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Duck breast with berry sauce. It's so good we had it for xmas for 4 or 5 years in a row.
posted by gaspode at 11:09 AM on December 23, 2013

Oh, it is possible that they are already cut in half in which case skip that step in my instructions. A whole duck breast is about 2.5 times as long as it is wide, while one that is cut in half has a straight sort of butt at one end (where it was cut) and tapers to a rounded point at the other, and is only a little longer than it is wide.
posted by gauche at 11:14 AM on December 23, 2013

I had an AWESOME curry made with pan seared duck breast.

Sear the duck breast until done through. Put on a bed of rice. Braise some bok choi in sesame oil and a light bit of soy sause.

Curry Sauce

Coconut milk
Tamarind paste
Brown Sugar
Fish oil
Soy Sauce
Red curry paste
grated ginger

I just combine the above ingredients until I get a nice hot and sweet sauce. It's sort of a Massaman Curry, but not quite.

Really good and really easy.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:54 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sear the duck breast until done through.

Please don't do this. Well-done duck is usually a travesty. The meat gets very dry when cooked that far. Med rare to medium is as far as you want to go.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sear the duck breast until done through.

I didn't mean dry and nasty, I mean not raw.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:07 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

OMG you guys-I knew y'all would come through! Now I just have to decide....
posted by PlantGoddess at 12:59 PM on December 23, 2013

Start in a cold pan on low heat. You'll render more fat.
posted by JPD at 1:55 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I came in to say what JPD said. It's best if you think of the skin-side-down cooking as two separate steps. The first step is about rendering out the fat under the skin. So you start in a cold pan, keep the heat low, and pour off the fat that accumulates. The second step is about crisping the skin, so you turn up the heat and brown quickly before turning over.

My own choice for a simple sauce is usually just ruby port and a couple of pieces of star anise reduced down to a syrup, with a few drops of fish sauce added at the end for umami-ness.
posted by neroli at 3:00 PM on December 23, 2013

And I'm sure you know this but...SAVE THE RENDERED FAT! (And use it to make some kickass roasted potatoes on another night.)
posted by neroli at 3:10 PM on December 23, 2013

My favorite way to cook duck breast is to score the skin and fat just down to the meat, marinate for a few hours in a mixture of red wine, thinly sliced shallots, a bit of soy sauce, some cumin, some minced ginger, a small shake of red pepper flakes, and some pepper. Cook the duck skin-side down in oil on medium heat until the fat has rendered and the skin is crispy, about 12 minutes. Turn over and finish for about 2 minutes to get medium-rare duck (at least with the duck breasts I used to buy from my Parisian butcher).

Meanwhile, reduce the marinade in a pan until the shallot is soft and the sauce is thick enough for serving.

After the duck has cooked, let it rest a few minutes, slice across the grain, put on a platter, cover with the sauce, and serve. This worked perfectly every time I did it, but I haven't done it with the duck you can get in North American markets.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:16 PM on December 23, 2013

(Oh, as the fat renders, pour it off from time to time, every few minutes. As everyone else has suggested, save it for cooking other yummy stuff.)
posted by brianogilvie at 6:31 AM on December 24, 2013

The duck is marinating, soon to be put in the cold pan...I will let you know how it turns out!
posted by PlantGoddess at 4:23 PM on December 24, 2013

Okay, the final yumminess:

2 duck breasts (small)
1/4 cup worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
about 2/3 tsp Peri-peri hot sauce
about 2/3 tsp black pepper
2+ tbsp minced garlic

Made the marinade ; scored the skin on duck breasts; blopped it all togeteher and left it for about 5 hours...I turned the breasts every half hour or so.

Started the cooking process with cold cast iron pan, as per above side down and pouring off the fat every so often. Turned over after about 12ish minutes (ya know, when it looked right), then left it on for another 10ish minutes. I did not turn up the heat until the last few minutes (to give a nice sear).
Thanks to all who weighed in on this thread - I have now redeemed myself on the cooking duck front!
posted by PlantGoddess at 5:53 PM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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