Pan seared duck is one of the most elegant choices for dinner, yet, at the same time, it’s one of the quickest and easiest to make, especially when paired with a quick yet flavorful sauce, that is prepared in the pan, while the duck is resting.
Duck breast meat is a special delicacy: unlike most poultry, it is at its best when cooked to medium-rare degree, very much like a good steak. The meat is highly flavorful, while the layer of fat adds more flavor, and a slight smokiness, when it is rendered in the pan.
While I often pair duck with citrus fruits, (click HERE for a recipe with kumquat marmalade, or HERE for duck legs roasted with orange and quince) – this time I’ve decided to go with tart cherries, another fruit that pairs wonderfully with duck.
The cherry flavor in the sauce was enhanced by a bit of cherry flavored beer, fresh thyme, and blueberries honey. This tasty and aromatic sauce paired beautifully with the succulent duck.
A small portion of this dish can be served as a first course, while a larger portion can be served as main course. Try it and enjoy.
* Unlike in many recipes, I start cooking the duck in a cold pan. This method allows the fat to render more slowly and lets the meat cook more evenly.
* Don’t discard the rendered fat – it is great for frying potatoes or eggs.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 20 minutes
For the duck:
1 half duck breast (0.8 lbs/360 grams), at room temperature
½ Tbs coarse salt
¼ tsp four peppers mix
For the sauce:
½ cup roughly chopped tart cherries (I used frozen/thawed, with the juices)
¼ cup cherry flavored beer (add ¼ cup more if using fresh cherries)
1 tsp honey
2 tsp butter, soft, divided
1 tsp rendered duck fat (from above)
1 medium shallot, small chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix
Leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 Tbs water
- Pat-dry the duck breast with paper towels. With a small sharp knife, score the fat side, in a crisscross pattern, making sure not to cut all the way through to the meat. Season with salt and pepper on both sides, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the shallot and set aside. Mix the cherries with the beer and honey in a bowl and set aside.
- Using a paper towel, remove extra salt from the duck, and place it, fat side down, in a medium heavy bottom cold frying pan. Place the pan over medium heat, and fry until the fat starts to render. Holding the pan with the duck, pour the fat into a small bowl (keep for later use. See notes). Keep frying, and removing the fat that accumulates in the pan, for about 10 minutes, until the skin side is nicely browned.
- Turn the duck over, and cook for about 5 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, hold the breast on the side, and fry for about a minute on each side. Do not overcook, you want the meat at medium-rare, or medium at the most. Transfer to a warm plate and keep in a warm place for 5-7 minutes.
- Add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp duck fat to the pan. Add the shallot, salt and pepper, and sauté over medium-high heat, until the shallot softens. Add the cherry mix and thyme, and mix. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch slurry, mix and cook for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add the remaining 1 tsp butter and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in a warm place while cutting the duck.
- Place the breast on a cutting board. With a large sharp knife, slice it into thick slices, and place on a serving plate. Add the sauce on the side, sprinkle a bit more thyme on top and serve.