Seared duck breast is a meal which is quick enough for weeknight dinner and special enough for a romantic dinner! Add a quick port cherry sauce spiced up with some ginger and saute the broccolini right in the pan with the duck fat and you have a simple, no fuss date night dinner which won’t have you in the kitchen all day.
Seared duck breast is one of those recipes which sounds complicated, but really isn’t. It is no more difficult than my Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs, and uses basically the same technique.
Get your skillet good and hot, put your duck breast skin side down, reduce the heat, let it crisp and render out the fat, give it a turn or two, and into the oven to finish! Simple, right?
There are two main differences between the chicken thighs and searing up some duck:
1. The fat! Duck has a thick layer of fat which you don’t get in chicken. This can be a problem when you are roasting up a whole duck since you need to find a way to render it out. However, the fat isn’t an issue with duck breast. Just give your duck a criss-cross pattern and some time on moderate heat for a beautiful crispy skin on the duck and most of the fat in a cup. (Because you’ll be scooping it out of the skillet!)
2. Unlike chicken, duck can be served medium rare. In fact, it should be served no more than medium. In this way, duck breast is like a nice, pan-roasted steak! With chicken thighs you can be relaxed and not worry if you’re a few minutes late getting it out of the oven. With duck (like steak), keep an eye on the time and have your meat thermometer at the ready.
Tip: About an hour before you are going to begin cooking, take the duck out of the refrigerator and slice through the fat (without cutting the meat) in a 1 inch pattern. This will help render the fat.
Perhaps you’re someone like me, who grew up on well cooked meats, and you’re saying ”Medium rare? No way!’ But trust me and leave as much pink as you can. Duck gets funny tasting when you overcook it. Livery is a good description, but not one I like use on my dinner. 🙂 If you can keep the duck to medium at most, you’ll have all the rich flavor of the meat without the downside of overcooking.
Once you have your duck to the right temperature, get it out of the pan over to your cutting board or a plate to rest. It’ll give off a fair amount of juice, so be ready for that. You can add that juice to the port sauce! I do and I love the extra flavor in the sauce.
Then you’re going to give your broccolini a quick saute in the duck fat – I start with just a little in the pan and then add more fat if I need to – until it’s a little browned and all yummy.
And that’s it! Other than the hold time at the beginning when you are letting the duck hang out on the counter and warm up a bit, this is a 30 minute meal. Get some potatoes in a pot while you are warming up your skillet, and you can have the whole meal done in a flash.
Though I should probably note that my preference, given a little more time to play with, is to make the potatoes earlier and put them in a casserole dish to warm back up while I’m cooking the duck. It keeps everything more relaxed if the potatoes are all done and don’t need fussing with while I’m working on the duck and the vegetables. Same with the port cherry sauce! So long as you’re organized, you can easily make the sauce with the duck, but it is also a great sauce to make ahead and then reheat. It all depends on how you like to cook and how much time to you have. 🙂
One thing I should mention before I get to the recipe is that there are two very different sizes of duck breast! And when I say different, I mean different! One type is a magret duck breast and the other is a Pekin duck breast.
What’s the difference between magret duck breast and Pekin duck breast?
The duck breast I used here in this recipe is a magret duck breast. They are about 14-16 oz per breast. If you are making dinner for two, you only need one of these. The other duck breast you may see in the store is Pekin duck breast. They are about 8 oz each, which of course means you’ll need two of those. Also, I usually find Pekin duck breast frozen, which is great when I’m thinking ahead, and magret duck is in the fresh meat case, which is great when I’m less organized, or just want a fresh piece of duck.
Until recently I’ve always had Pekin duck, but then my local market changed hands and they had magret duck breast, so I gave it a try. Noting that I gave it a try because I wanted duck, they no longer stocked Pekin duck, and I didn’t want to drive the extra 5 minutes down to the road to the next supermarket. Yes, sometimes I try new things because I’m lazy. 😉 Anyway, I cooked it like a Pekin duck and I ruined it! Bleh. I had the heat of my skillet too high and the duck ended up tough. So then I got stubborn since no duck was going to get the best of me, and I bought another one. This one I seared, then popped into the oven. Not any more difficult than my previous recipe but using the oven made all the difference.
What should you do if you can only find Pekin duck breast?
No worries! What you do is skip the oven roasting part of the recipe. Pekin duck is small and thin enough that it cooks perfectly just on the cook top. So, shave about 10 minutes off your cooking time and plan to be a bit more organized about your sides and sauce since you’re not going to have as much time to get them done.
And now my market has both sizes in stock! As well as a variety of duck legs. Including fresh duck leg confit. I think more duck recipes and some work on my cassoulet recipe are my future.
– Happy Cooking, Annemarie
- 1 large (magret) duck breast, 14-16 oz
- kosher salt and pepper
- 1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped (1 tbsp)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 3/4 cup ruby port
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/4 cup dried cherries
Slice the skin of the duck in a diamond pattern, being careful to just cut through the skin and fat, but not into the meat. Cut at about 1 inch intervals. Sprinkle the duck breast with kosher salt and pepper. For best results let the duck sit out on the counter for at 30 minutes, up to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450F. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position.
Once you are ready to begin, heat a medium oven proof skillet over medium high heat. And get a large saucepan of water over high heat to bring to a boil.
Once the water in the saucepan is boiling, add the broccolini and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and then plunge into cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
- Lay the duck breast skin side down in the hot skillet. Reduce the heat to medium low and let the skin brown and fat render for 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is deep golden brown and much of the fat has melted off. Spoon out the fat frequently while you are searing the duck. Turn the duck over and sear the other side for 3 minutes. Flip the duck back to skin side down and put the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the duck reaches 130F for medium rare. If you prefer medium, continue roasting for another 1-2 minutes and take the duck out at 135F.
Once the duck is out of the oven, move it to a plate and let it rest. Then add the broccolini to the skillet and saute it in the duck fat (adding more if needed) for 2-3 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned. Sprinkle the broccolini with some kosher salt.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the shallots and salt and saute for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the port and then stir in the balsamic and ginger. Bring to a boil and cook down until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more vinegar or ginger if needed. Stir in the dried cherries.
When you are ready to serve, thinly slice the duck breast and arrange the slices onto two plates. Divide the broccolini between the plates. Spoon some of the sauce over the duck and serve the rest at the table.
If your sauce is a little thin, and you like a thicker sauce, mix 1 tsp of flour with some duck fat, then whisk it into the the sauce and let it boil for at least 30 seconds.
I like more ginger, so I would use about 2 tsp in the sauce. My husband thought that was a bit much, so adjust the amount to your liking.
This recipe uses magret duck breast. For Pekin duck breast, simply sear it on the cook top as directed and there is no need to put it in the oven. 5 minutes + 3 minutes (+ one more if needed) in the skillet will produce medium rare duck.