If you are considering what to serve for Valentine's Day, here is an easy dinner that is prepared in just minutes - crispy seared duck breast. Never tried duck breast? It's absolutely terrific. It has a mild, rich flavor. I think you will be happily surprised.
I rediscovered duck breast when a client requested it for dinner. Having forgotten about duck, I was amazed by how simple, rich and tasty it was. Such a nice change from the usual. I have been making it ever since for a more special dinner for visiting friends, holidays and celebrations.
Buying Duck Breast
I buy Pekin duck breasts. White Pekin is the most popular duck breed raised in the US. It is more mild than Muscovy, Moulard or Mallard, which can have a more gamey, wild taste. If you like that, good for you. It's just not my preference. Pekin duck is tender, with a rich flavor, but not gamey or wild. It is just delightful.
Where we live in Southern California, I buy Mary's Duck (Pekin breasts) at Whole Foods. Mary's is California raised. But duck is raised in many parts of the country, so look for what is available in your area. Another offering grown in the east is Maple Leaf Farms. Talk with your butcher to see what is available.
The packaged bundles of duck breasts are small and easy to handle. There might be 2-4 pieces per package. For this post, I bought one package, almost 1 pound of duck breasts. It was perfect for the two of us, after trimming and cooking.
To cook duck breast, pre-heat the oven to 425° and heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. While the pan is heating, trim the duck.
Lay the duck breasts skin side down and trim off an excess fat that is over the edge of the flesh. When you flip the duck breasts over, they will look like the above photo, clean and neat.
Next, using a thin, sharp knife, score the duck fat into a cross hatch pattern. Slice through the fat but not into the flesh. If your knife is sharp, let the knife do it's work. Draw the knife gently across the fat with almost no pressure. The knife will slice through the fat but not through the flesh.
After trimming and scoring, season the fat side of the duck breast with sea salt, ground black pepper and granulated garlic. Chinese Five Spice is nice too. Turn the heat down to medium and place the seasoned duck breast fat side down in the pan.Let the duck sear for a few minutes, until the side is dark golden brown. Watch so they do not burn. Much fat will be rendered out, turning liquid in the pan.
Turn breasts over and place pan in the over for 2-3 minutes to finish. Remove pan from the oven, lift breasts out of the fat and onto a cutting board. Allow them to stand for a few minutes, then slice across the breast. You can save the rendered fat to cook with, just strain and refrigerate.
Serve crispy seared duck breast alone or with a sauce of your choice. I serve it with an easy blackberry sauce. The recipe is here. Make it with fresh or frozen blackberries.
If you do not cook with wine, simply crush and cook the blackberries with a little water and low sugar jam or honey to make a sauce and serve with the duck.
A splash of vinegar gives it a lift, use either a good regular balsamic or a blackberry or blueberry balsamic.
If you do cook with wine, you don't have to open a big bottle to make the sauce. Just buy the mini, airline-sized bottles. They are great for cooking.
Seared duck breast is good served with a simple green vegetable like broccolini or asparagus, and some whipped sweet potatoes. Add a tossed green salad for balance. If you need suggestions on keeping salads interesting, read this article on building better salads.
Crispy Seared Duck Breast
- Cast iron skillet or other heavy pan
- 2 pounds boneless duck breast I like Pekin, ask your butcher
- ¼ teaspoon Salt pepper and granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
Ready the oven and pan
- Pre-heat your oven to 425°. Place a cast iron skillet or fry pan (I use a 10″ for the two of us) on the stove and heat it until very hot but not smoking.
Trim duck breast
- Open the package of duck breasts and drain off any liquid. Place the breasts skin side down on a cutting board and trim of excess fat that goes beyond the edges of the meat.Turn the breasts over, fat side up. With a thin, sharp knife, score duck skin about every ½″ into a diamond pattern. Slice through the skin and fat, but not into the meat itself. See the photo in the post for visual help. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic.
Sear duck breasts
- When the pan is good and hot, turn it down to medium and place the breasts fat side down. The pan should sizzle when the duck hits the surface. Then you know it is hot.
- Allow the duck skin to get crisp and dark golden brown. Watch so that it does not burn. When the color is achieved, turn the breasts over and pop the pan into the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from the oven, allow duck to stand for a few minutes to reabsorb its juices, then slice across the breast. Serve alone or with your choice of sauce.