Duck Breasts With Port and Prunes
Subtle Sweetness and Quick to Cook
- Servings: 4.
The great Jacques Pepin has a recipe that combines pork tenderloins with a rich port wine sauce. We've adapted it by replacing the pork with duck breasts which are complimented by the sweetness from the prunes and port.
The step of browning the duck is essential to produce a rich and complex flavor so do not use a non-stick pan because you won't develop the flavorful brown "fond" that forms on the bottom that is deglazed into the sauce.
This dish is quick enough for a weekday dinner but it's special enough for company. Serve with rice pilaf or couscous.
- 6 ounces pitted prunes (15 to 20 small prunes, fewer if they're large and already pitted)
- 1/2 cup port
- 2 duck breasts, trimmed of all but about 1/2-inch of fat
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2/3 cup good chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon black currant jam
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- About an hour before cooking, pour 2 cups of boiling water over the prunes and let them sit for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Pour the port over the drained prunes and let sit for another 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200º F and have an oven-proof platter or sheet pan ready.
- Make a series of shallow cuts into the fat side of each duck breast, on the diagonal and about 1-inch apart. Only cut into the fat, not the meat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Using a skillet or sauté pan, set the pan over medium high heat. Add no fat. When the pan is hot, add the duck breasts, fat side down, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook the duck breasts for about 8 to 10 minutes until the fat has largely rendered and browned. Do not cook too fast because you'll cook off all the fat without cooking the meat. Turn the meat over and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. A total of 12 to 15 minutes cooked at medium low should result in medium rare meat. Remove and place in the oven to keep warm but not to continue cooking.
- Drain off any excess fat from the sauté pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon of fat, and place it back on medium heat.
- Add the minced shallots to the hot pan and sauté for about 30 seconds until they begin to take on a little color and soften.
- Add the red wine vinegar, being careful not to get a nose-full of the acidic fumes that will rise when the vinegar hits the hot pan. Stir with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan.
- Add the chicken stock, continuing to stir and then add the port and prunes.
- Remove the duck breasts from the oven. If any juices have accumulated, pour these into the sauce and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil and cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly reduced and thickened.
- While the sauce reduces, let the duck breasts sit on a cutting board to rest.
- When the sauce has become slightly thickened, stir in the black currant jam and ketchup, mixing well.
- Slice the duck breasts into 1-inch diagonal slices, cutting along the shallow marks made before cooking. Arrange the slices on a serving platter and pour the sauce over them, or else pass the sauce separately for each to pour their own.
- Serve immediately.
Tip: Port is a fortified wine that is often served as a dessert wine. Some ports can be particularly sweet and spicy, and some vintage ports can be notably pricey. As with cooking with any wine, choose a port you'd be willing to drink by the glass, although you may not want to use a precious vintage port in your cooking. Instead select a medium quality ruby or tawny port. If you don't have or don't like port, you could substitute Madiera or a fruity Zinfandel wine in this recipe.
Tip: If you can't find black currant jam, use another dark fruit seedless jam such as black cherry or raspberry.