This Crispy Duck Breast is a great recipe for entertaining. Duck is always a very elegant dish and the Cherry Port Sauce makes it a stand out dish. This dish would be great for Christmas, New Year’s or even a summer BBQ! Serve with a peppery Syrah or cherry-noted Pinot Noir. Your guests will never guess how easy this is to prepare!
This recipe uses duck breasts so they cook quickly and have a very mild taste. The trick to cooking duck breast is you want the meat to be rare or medium rare. It will be very tough if you cook it beyond that.
You will see that there is a definite layer of fat on top of the breast. You will want to cook the breast with the fat on. It’s your choice whether you eat the skin or trim if off as you eat it. Fat levels for a 3.5 oz Pekin duck breast are estimated at 3 grams of fat for no skin and 11 grams for skin on. Muscovy duck is leaner than Pekin duck or Mallard.
The secret to getting a crispy skin is to score the breast in a cross hatch pattern to allow the fat to render. Be careful not to cut into the flesh. I use a cast iron skillet because it provides such a nice even heat and you can pop it right into the oven to finish off the breasts. When you are rendering the fat off the breast, pour off any excess fat after about 6 minutes.Reserve the fat – it is a classic oil for browning potatoes!
You could also do this on the BBQ. I would heat one side of the grill only, sear the fat side for 6 minutes over medium heat, sear 1 minute on the lean side and then move the breast just off the heat to continue cooking with indirect heat. You may want to have a spray bottle handy because the dripping breast fat will cause flare ups so you will need to either spray them out or move the breasts momentarily to the unheated side to rescue them from burning. The down side of BBQing is you won’t have that beautiful duck fat for browning potatoes!
Pekin duck was developed in China and appears in records 4,000 years old. Pekin duck is also popular and available in North America and throughout the world. Brome Lake is a major producer in Canada of Pekin duck. King Cole Duck is Ontario’s rival to Brome Lake. They market all kinds of duck cuts from breasts to legs, to spiedini (cubes or balls of meat on skewers). They even have ‘duck school’ where you can sign up for cooking classes with local chefs to prepare various duck themed menus.
France is partial to Muscovy duck since the males are noted for large lean breasts. Oddly Muscovy refers to Moscow but the ducks are native to Mexico, South and Central America.
Duck works well with fairly strong flavors like orange, sage, onion and cherry of course! Duck confit was a classic method of preserving duck meat by salt curing the duck and then roasting long and slow in a roaster large enough to hold the duck and the rendered fat. The duck meat submerged in the fat would keep refrigerated for several weeks at least.
Nowadays when you see duck confit on a menu the fat has been strained off and the shredded, flavorful meat is often used in a ragout type meat sauce. (I just made myself hungry… I feel a duck ragout coming on!)
If you are new to duck – start here with a simple, fast and mild tasting introduction to a whole new poultry world!
The number of servings for a main dish will depend on the size of your breasts -estimate 1/4 lb per serving for a main course.
There is a new T & T Superstore in Waterloo that opened in December 2018. They have a great collections of duck breasts in stock all the time. The St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market also will have duck breasts available.
In order to play up the cherry notes in the sauce I would look for a Pinot Noir or Merlot that have descriptors of red fruits and/or cherries specifically. Both of these wines are also medium to full bodied with lower tannin levels that will not over power the dish.
A peppery Syrah would also work well. I would look for a Syrah that is described as peppery, medium body and smooth (as opposed to a jammy Shiraz that would risk over powering the dish). French syrah, Washington state or Niagara Canada syrahs would all be good candidates.