Duck breast. Hands down the breastiest breast you could ever ingest. While still a fowl like chicken is, the meat of a duck breast cooks and tastes like a red meat so you don’t want to cook the hell out of it. It should never be cooked past medium rare. The tricky part is that it’s denser than a standard steak and it’s got a thick layer of fat on one side of it so you can’t just cook it on both sides for a few minutes and then consider it done. But don’t worry there’s a simple technique to getting it right every time that I’ll get to soon.
I’m heading to New York City this week with the now legendary, mythical, yet very real Sasquatch. We decided to get together this weekend to go over travel plans and to bone up on our partying skills, and bone we did! Uh wait a minute…
So anyway, dinner plans in NYC are all set and this trip is gonna be epic! I just have to remember my tranquilizer gun in case Sassy, as he likes to be called, gets antsy. So I figured this would be a good time to step up my game and make a killer meal to prepare us for this road trip. It doesn’t get sexier than a perfectly cooked magret de canard with a cranberry and raspberry sauce accompanied by roasted grelot potatoes (in duck fat of course!) and swiss chard gratiné in a mornay sauce. What’s a mornay? Oh not much, what’s a mornay with you? Kidding aside it’s a milk and cheese based type of sauce.
Ok so I won’t get into detail about how to make the swiss chard dish in here since that would make this article quite long and I don’t want to bore you any more than I usually do. As always though if that dish tickles your fancy just shoot me a note and I can post it for you.
The potato dish is as simple as it is sexy. You just take a pound or two of grelot potatoes depending how many people you’ll be and slice them into 1 cm discs. Parboil them in salted water and then drain the water out. In case you aren’t sure, parboiling just means boiling the potatoes for about 5 minutes. This essentially partially cooks the potatoes so that when you roast them after you’ll have a nice crispy potato outside and fluffy potato inside. A bit like Sassy really; hard and rough on the outside but soft and frankly a bit of a wuss on the inside. Then you put the potatoes into a baking dish with about half a container of duck fat(you can get this at most grocery stores now), some fresh rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven at 400f for about 30 minutes, moving them around once or twice so they don’t burn on the bottom and KASLAMO! you got amazing potatoes. Keep in mind you want all dishes ready at the same time so don’t go making the potatoes first. I would say get your duck sauce started and then as it begins to reduce and thicken a bit you can work on the potatoes.
I should note here that this whole meal is a bit intensive so if you aren’t sure you can handle this much for a meal you can forego the swiss chard for a simple salad on the side or some grilled asparagus. Now onto the duck and the sauce!
Sexiest Duck of All Time
2 Duck breasts
1 Cup of white wine
1.5 Cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 Cup of honey
1 Cup of raspberries
3 French shallots- finely sliced
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Small bunch of fresh basil-finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
The duck itself is ridiculously simple and is taken care of right at the end. For now all you need to do with it is remove it from the fridge, score the fat(make criss crossing diagonal lines on it to help render the fat) and season it. This sauce is a take of a sauce I learned in a foie gras class with Martin Picard. In a small saucepan bring the wine to a boil on medium high heat and reduce it by half. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cranberries. Let them cook in the wine for about 2 to 3 minutes and then add the honey. Give it all a good stir and let it cook for about 5 minutes, remembering to always stir counterclockwise so you don’t ruin the sauce. Now add the vinegar and let cook for about a minute and then taste it. Season with some salt here too. Honestly, the amounts of the honey and vinegar in this sauce are not exact. As with any dish, you need to taste this often. What you want is a nice balance of sweet and bitter like in a healthy marriage. Too bitter is no fun and too sweet is like living in an 80s sitcom. Ok, I’ve got the balance that I like so I lower the heat to let it simmer and thicken, you know like Sassy after a few drinks.
From here you simply sauté the shallots for a few minutes and set them aside. Now preheat a heavy bottomed pan, or a Kardashian pan if you will, on a medium high heat. No need to add oil or butter before throwing the duck in there since the fat from the duck will render fast enough and provide a nice layer of liquid heaven in there. So, lay your breasts in the pan fat side down and do not touch them for 6 minutes. Please tell me you have enough discipline to not touch spectacular breasts for 6 minutes. Now flip them and sear the meaty side for 1 minute. Remove them from the heat and drain the fat into a bowl. DO NOT DISCARD THE FAT! That is some perfectly good, juicy fat there, don’t waste it! Now flip the breast again so that it’s fat side down again and put the pan in the oven that should already be preheated at 400f from the potatoes. Roast the duck for 6 or 7 minutes, remove from the pan and place on a cutting board and loosely cover them with foil. Let them rest for about 5 minutes.
While your breasts are resting(I can’t help but giggle as I write that line) add the sautéd shallots, raspberries, basil and 3 or 4 tablespoons of the rendered duck fat into the sauce and give it all a good stir. Slice your duck in about 1/2 inch slices on a bias and top with the sauce. FANDANGO! Holy hot damn what a dish! I pride myself on the sauces I make and consider it one of my strengths in the kitchen but this is by far the best sauce I’ve busted out. Everything just balances perfectly here. I can imagine this must be what a Nobel Peace Prize would taste like if it was food. But what did Sassy think? “SASQUATCH LIKE!!” He claps me on the back meatily as he eats and when I come to I have 3 racked ribs and a punctured lung and the food is long gone.