Late last year I met up with some old friends in Paris and attended a cooking class led by the delightful Paule Caillat at Promenades Gourmandes. It was an unforgettable experience and I think fondly of Paule every time we make one of her delicious dishes. In fact, we have now served her recipe for Magret de Canard with Sauce Bordelaise to so many friends that we have lost count. The star of her recipe is absolutely the bordelaise sauce (which is the best I have ever had) but we also found the technique for pan searing duck breasts to be a revelation, who knew it was so easy!
This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Twenty Minute Honey Glazed Duck Breasts, features the same technique for cooking the duck, but is paired with a quick and easy honey-balsamic pan sauce. As someone who has now put this technique to good use on multiple occasions, may I just say that it is brilliant and really easy. If done correctly, the skin comes out crispy and delicious and the meat juicy and tender. Then, it’s just a matter of deciding how you want to dress it up, and Dorie’s simple pan sauce (see her full recipe here in d’Artagnan) is perfect for when you need to get dinner on the table quickly and with minimal fuss.
The all important technique calls for the fatty duck skin to be scored into a crosshatch pattern without cutting the meat; this is important because if you cut into the meat the juices will escape during cooking and your duck may end up dry. The breasts are then seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked, skin side down first, in a very hot skillet. Note that, as with bacon, there is no need to add any butter or oil to the pan because the duck has enough fat to saute itself. A couple minutes on each side, then a short stint in the oven, and voila! Perfectly cooked every time.
Just one word of warning here, this is one of those recipes which will make you appreciate your splatter screen (or make you wish you had one) because all that duck fat can get a bit messy. It may also test the batteries in your smoke detector. But please do not let that deter you, because if you like duck, this is a great way to cook it.