Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Seared and Glazed Duck Breasts

"Do you know what your plans are for the French Bistro class this Friday?" read the e-mail from Steve. I am used to students asking about parking, directions, and what to bring, but this is the first time someone asked what we are cooking. All my class descriptions list tentative dishes with a disclaimer that they might change with the season. Most people are ok with that, but not so this time. Steve had been dreaming about duck breasts for weeks now (could it have something to do with the picture next to the description for the French Bistro class? ;) He was hoping to put in a good word for this lovely little bird before I did my shopping and was relieved to hear that the duck breasts are my traditional pièce de résistance in French Bistro class rain or shine.

My students loved them and were surprised that great duck breasts were easier to cook than chicken breasts. Here is the basic principle behind this recipe:

1) Score the skin to allow fat to render -- this results in a crispy and delectable skin that is not too thick, fatty, and chewy

2) Render fat over low heat so that the breasts don't cook too fast and toughen

3) Test the temperature with a thermometer to be sure the duck is done to your liking. Keep in mind that duck meet looks much more "done" than beef at a particular temperature. For example, at 130F (at the time of serving), beef looks quite red, but duck looks pinkish brown. 130F is my ideal temperature for both of them (this means removing them from heat at 120F to allow for residual cooking). I consider this temperature to be medium-rare even though duck is not red inside. To make it *look* medium-rare, it has to be cooked to much lower temperature. I find that many restaurants make this mistake resulting in chewy skin and tough meat.

Seared and Glazed Duck Breasts

Note: this recipe was developed and tested with Long Island or Pekin duck. If you use a larger duck, such as Moulard, you'll need to adjust cooking times. Long Island duck will be more tender; Moulard duck will be more flavorful.

Serves 4

4 duck breasts
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp plum preserve, honey, or maple syrup
  1. Score the skin of the duck breasts in a criss-cross pattern using a single-sided razor blade or a very sharp knife. Trim the silver skin off the flesh. Dry duck thoroughly with paper towels.
  2. Season both sides of duck generously with salt and pepper.
  3. Set a large skillet over high heat. When hot, add the duck breasts skin side down without overlapping. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Cook without disturbing until most of the fat renders and the skin is about 1/6 inch thick, 5-7 minutes
  4. Tilt the pan and spoon out all the fat. Turn up the heat to medium-high and continue to cook duck breasts until the skin is crisp and golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Flip the breasts. Brush on the preserve, honey, or maple syrup onto the skin. Cook 3-5 minute or until internal temperature reaches 120F for medium-rare, 125F for medium. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve immediately with the juices that accumulate on the cutting board during slicing.
P.S. The reason this picture looks familiar is because it also appeared in the post about collard greens. Remember how you guys asked me for the recipe for the mystery meat that is sitting next to the greens? Well, here is it :)


BipolarLawyerCook said...

Looks delicious, and looking forward to my fish class on Saturday!

Pam said...

It looks great, and now I know I've only been making them "almost" right. Next time I see duck breasts at Russo's...

And don't forget the berry sauce!

I usually use whatever berries are in season, with maple-syrup, sage and some salt and pepper, reduced and strained.

My spouse says that the duck is just there to deliver the sauce!

wheresmymind said...

Looks like all the cool Boston kids are doing Duck these days!

Anonymous said...

What kind of pan do you suggest using? Will a cast iron retain too much heat to make this method work?


Helen said...

A good heavy pan with stainless steel lining (like all-clad, cuisinart, etc.) works well. Have never tried it in cast iron.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Helen. I tried it last week in a cast iron on high heat, just searing on both sides, and it came out the right temperature and the fat was tasty, but the meat was really tough.

Helen said...

Hi Matt,

I think the low heat is essential here. Not sure if cast iron can sabotage this process. Did you keep the heat on high or reduce it to very low as soon as the breasts went in the pan.


Anonymous said...

I turned it down, but only to medium, if not medium/high. The next time I stop by Citarella, I'll give it another go (maybe with berry sauce this time). I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks for the advice!


P.S. I also tried the seared striped bass with orange gremolata (I actually used tangerines) the other night and was happy about it. The extra work segmenting the fruit was worth it.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

Helen! It's about 10:30 at night here in Chicago, and there is freezing rain. But if I thought I could find some non-frozen duck breasts out there right now, I would be heading for the car. These sound wonderful! I am SO going to make them.

Chef Jeena said...

Hi there I love your blog it is fantastic. You have lovely recipes and the pictures are amazing. :)