I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous to make a recipe. A few weeks ago, Duck University taught a group of bloggers how easy it was to prepare duck breast. They said it was so simple it could be done on a weeknight in about 20 minutes.
I watched celebrity chef Sara Moulton prepare it two ways, but I didn’t get the opportunity to try to prepare it myself until I returned home to Las Vegas.
I felt like my career as a home cook was on the line. I had two major concerns: my husband hates soggy poultry skin, and I didn’t know how he’d react to medium-rare poultry.
Turns out, cooking duck is easy, if you know the secret.
“It’s the first side you want to focus on,” Chef Moulton said, referring to the skin side of the duck breast.
For the perfect crispy skin, you should score the skin and cook it skin-side down slow and low to medium-rare. Boy would that have been good to know years ago.
Using a sharp knife, she scored diamonds with diagonal lines into the skin without cutting into the meat. She seasoned them with salt and pepper. Then, she placed them skin-side down in a cool pan and cooked them over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until the skin was crispy. As it cooked, the fat rendered and began simmering around the breasts.
She removed the breasts from the pan and poured out most of the fat, saving it for later. Chef referred to this excess fat as “liquid gold” that can be used a variety of ways.
She returned the breasts to the pan, skin-side up. And cooked to medium rare, about 3 minutes. She placed the breasts on a plate and tented them with foil to rest and lock-in the juices.
When I got home, I tried her technique, adding a few Zestuous seasonings. I also created a duck gravy, using the rendered fat to make a roux and served it with mashed potatoes. I called my husband to the table, and just as I expected, he said, “Hey this bird is still pink!”
I explained to him that unlike chicken, you could eat duck medium-rare. The birds don’t carry the same risk of salmonella because they’re raised in clean conditions (which I witnessed firsthand).
After he got over that, he took a slow bite. I didn’t say anything. I just watched. Before I knew it, each bite got bigger and faster. He went from Doubter-McDucker Pants to dunking each bite in gravy until it was quickly gone.
I jumped up from the table and broke out into “Der Ententanz,” the duck dance. Voila! I had found a new protein he liked, and most importantly, I cooked it right!
As a graduate of Duck University, Maple Leaf Farms is planning to send me a variety of products. I’m really excited to see what else I can do with this protein. It’s going to be a new kitchen adventure for me. I hope you join along and share your creations with me, too. Together, we can discover duck.
Duck University Part 1: From farm to freezer
Duck University Part 2: Enjoying duck prepared by a Master Chef
- 2 duck breasts
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup chicken or duck stock
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tablespoon butter
- mashed potatoes
- fresh parsley for optional garnish
Using a sharp knife, score the duck breast skin on the diagonal. Rotate the breast ¼ turn and score again, creating diamonds without cutting into the meat. Lightly season the skin with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne.
Place skin-side down in a cold non-stick or cast iron pan. Turn the heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the breasts from the pan and place on a plate. If the breast is stuck to the pan, carefully use a metal spatula to remove it. Pour the rendered fat into a small bowl.
Season the meat side with the same seasonings. Return to the pan meat-side down. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove to a plate, skin-side up and cover with foil.
Pour the rendered fat back into the pan. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté, until tender over medium-low heat. Add the flour. Stir to make a roux, cooking for about 3 minutes.
Add the chicken or duck broth, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium and stir until thickened. Stir in the butter until melted. Remove the foil from the duck and pour the juices into the gravy. Stir to combine.
Slice the breast. It should be slightly pink. Plate with mashed potatoes and gravy. Garnish with fresh parsley.