Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crispy Sautéed Duck Breast with Cherry Quinoa

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And now for my favorite bird – duck! Chicken is alright, but it just doesn’t have the natural flavor or richness of a bird that can fly. If you’ve never had duck, my advice is: HAVE DUCK. It’s all dark meat, it’s fatty, and it’s delicious. This first duck dish is a relatively easy one, with only a few components to worry about. You can sauté using clarified butter, but I opted to use duck fat instead. Sweet, sweet, versatile duck fat. I found a little tub of it at Whole Foods, so that’s where I’d start looking if you’re not sure where to purchase it.

Speaking of purchasing things, you’ll likely need to buy a whole duck and cut the breasts off for this. I couldn’t find any place selling just duck breasts, but if you can, go for it. If you buy a whole duck, don’t worry – the next recipe will tell you how best to prepare the legs and thighs, so stay tuned!

Difficulty: Medium
Active Prep Time: About 45 minutes
Total Prep Time: About 45 minutes
Special Equipment: Fine mesh strainer (chinois)
Serves: 2


  • 2 duck breasts, skin on
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 20 cherries, dehydrated, chopped
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rendered duck fat, as needed


(Start by prepping the quinoa)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

2. Add 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of chicken stock to a small pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then add a few pinches of salt, cover the pot with a lid or aluminum foil, and place into the oven for 20 minutes.

3. After 20 minutes, take the pot out of the oven and leave it covered. Set it aside for another 20 minutes.

(Once you take the quinoa out of the oven, you should start cooking your duck)

4. Lightly score the skin side of each breast to create a diamond pattern.

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5. Season both sides with salt and pepper, then place in a cold pan, skin side down. Turn the heat on medium low.

6. The skin side of the breasts will begin to sizzle and fat will render out quickly. Use a spatula to make sure they do not stick to the pan.

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7. Add about 2 extra tablespoons of rendered duck fat to the pan and let it melt. Use a large spoon to baste the breasts with the fat every minute or so. You’ll see the meat on top beginning to cook as you do this.

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8. After about 10 minutes, the breasts should be mostly cooked if you’ve been basting regularly. The skin side should be a nice dark, golden brown. Turn off the heat and flip the breasts over. There will still be plenty of heat in the pan to finish cooking them for the next 2 – 3 minutes. When they’re done, place them on a rack and cover with tin foil.

(Once you’ve set the cooked duck aside, it’s time to make the cherry gastrique sauce)

9. Take the chopped, dehydrated cherries and place them in a pan with water and red wine vinegar.

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10. Turn the heat on medium-high and cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Pour the contents of the pan through a chinois or other fine mesh strainer, and into another clean pan. Now take the cherries and mix them into the quinoa, which should be ready to uncover by this point.

11. Add another tablespoon of water to the pan with the remaining cherry-infused liquid, then add the sugar. Mix until it dissolves.

12. Continue cooking the mixture until it reaches a syrupy consistency.

(Serving time!)

13. Use a serving spoon to spread some cherry gastrique on the plate. Make a bed of quinoa on top of that, then slice the duck breast and lay it on top of the quinoa (Don’t put sauce on top of the duck as I did – it was a mistake and you want the skin to stay crispy).

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