Duck Breast with Blackberries
From Fat, By Jennifer McLagan
Reprinted with permission from Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, by Jennifer McLagan, copyright © 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press.
- Servings: 4.
Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, With Recipes by Jennifer McLagan (Ten Speed Press, $32.50, hardcover, 240 pages, full-color photographs) has 100 recipes, including this pitch-perfect treatment of duck breasts -- "as good as a steak with a crisp crust of fat."
By combining the duck with fresh blackberries she creates a balance of savory, sweet and acidic. The recipe is also a perfect instruction in the technique for cooking duck breasts which are best served medium-rare. Ms. McLagan advocates using a splatter screen to guard against the breasts spitting and sputtering while they cook, a very good tip if you've ever faced the clean-up after pan cooking a duck breast.
McLagan's recipe includes a variation of the dish as a warm salad. If you make this version, I'd suggest holding back a few of the blackberries to toss with the salad as a brightly flavored and appealing garnish.
- 2 boneless duck breast halves, about 8 to 10 ounces / 225 to 285 g each
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large orange
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml port
- 1 1/3 cups / 6 ounces / 175 g blackberries
- Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.
- Score the skin in a crosshatch pattern, cutting through the skin and fat but not cutting the meat Season both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Finely grate the zest of the orange and set aside. Squeeze enough juice to measure 1/4 cup / 60 ml.
- Place a heavy frying pan over high heat. When it is hot, add the breasts, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan with a splatter screen, and cook for 5 minutes. Pour off the fat, set aside, and continue to cook the breasts, skin skide down, for another 5 minutes.
- Pour off any excess fat, turn the breasts over, and cook for another 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts. To test doneness, press the meat side of the breast with your finger; it should feel soft and spongy. Transfer the cooked breasts to a plate, cover loosly with aluminum foil, and leave to rest for 5 minutes.
- Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened. Add the port and bring to a boil. Deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Add the orange zest, juice, and blackberries, lower the heat, and simmer until the liquid is slightly reduced and the berries are warm and softened. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cut the duck breasts into thick slices and serve with the sauce.
To serve the duck breast as a warm salad, replace half the orange juice with 2 tablespoons of wine vinegar. Toss together some frisée and watercress, top with the sliced duck breast, and pour over the warm sauce.