Recently, when we were in San Francisco's Chinatown. I got a little freaked out at the how their whole duck was displayed. Suffice it to say, that I don't want my dinner to to be served in a state where I can see the entire bird-- neck, beak and all. That's enough to make me convert to being a vegetarian. Sort of. It was so unsettling, that I played it safe and ordered sesame chicken. 'Nuff said. My favorite part of poultry is the breast meat.
I think my fear of cooking duck is that I don't want to ruin a pricey piece of meat. I did a little research, to give me wisdom and confidence, and then told my son that his wish was finally my command.
Just be sure that you don't cut through to the meat. Done.
One of my favorite cooking methods is "searing". I love a crusty exterior, and all those lovely brown bits makes such a beautiful pan sauce. I knew I wanted to make a cherry pan sauce. Then again, I think orange goes really well with duck. So, why not do both?
The breasts are seared, skin side down, for about 10 minutes...
This is how I like the skin-- crispy and golden. See all the fat?
Turn the duck breasts over and cook for about 3 more minutes. Remove them, cover loosely with foil and pour out the rendered duck fat. Don't throw it out! I saved mine in a glass jar, because duck fat and potatoes = yum! Now, for the pan sauce...
I started with chopped shallots, sauteed until translucent. Next, the port and orange juice is added, while scraping off all the flavorful brown stuff.
Last, I added the zest of the orange...
Now, comes the preserves, and then the sauce is reduced at a boil, until it reduces and starts to thicken.
I don't always do this, but since this is a special dinner, I turn off the heat and add a couple pats of unsalted butter. Whisk it in, and the sauce takes on a silky texture with a rich flavor.
Since this dinner was in the "fancy" category, I decided to make Gruyere Au Gratin Potatoes.
I like my duck to be medium-rare (130F). As I sliced into the duck breast, I said a little prayer that I didn't overcook the duck. Amen. The meat turned out super moist and juicy-- and the color was perfect.
Taking photos proved to be a challenge. When you have two hungry men (and a cook), anxious to dig in, I had to work really fast to get my shot and get on to dinner!
My son works at a restaurant. He had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (double-shift lunch and dinner). This was mom's way of making up for the holiday dinners, with his family, that he missed out on. So, he got served first...
Sides dishes were roasted asparagus and Yukon Gold Potatoes Au Gratin.
My son, skillfully uncorked a bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir.
TASTING NOTES: First, I have to ask myself what took me so long to make duck! It's not hard to do, at all. In fact, this dinner took less than an hour to put together, and that includes photographing each step. I adapted this recipe from Food Network (here) and I'm glad that I did not bake the breasts (per the original recipe). Had I done so, I think the duck would have been overcooked. It was perfect. The sauce was delicious. According to my son, he said this dinner was worthy to be served at his restaurant (which is a "nice" one in Carmel). To a mom, that is the ultimate compliment. I only wish I had bought more than two duck breasts (I was being
cheap careful.) I could see my son eyeing my serving. SIGH. (Yes, I gave him more.)
As for the potatoes-- my two men loved them. I'll share that next.
A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.