Sous Vide Duck Breasts in Red-Wine Balsamic Sauce


Would you consider it fast food if a dish can be prepared in less than 20 minutes? Is it possible this is also a fancy restaurant dish, not served at a fast-food joint?

In France, it’s common that every home cook would have a few simple duck recipes in their repertoire. Julia Child has more than a dozen duck recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I would’ve never thought of attempting to make a dish like: boned stuffed duck baked in a pastry crust on page 571. I looked at that recipe repeatedly. It is so inspiring though that may be one day I might. Honestly, that would be a very good day indeed if it arrives.

When I found this quick pan-seared duck recipe (sauteed duck in vinegar sauce) with a few basic pantry ingredients in Essential Pepin, I was hooked. I wanted it to be the first dish I made on this blog to celebrate Pepin’s remarkable breath as a chef and his contributions in bringing classic French home cooking to our kitchens. Thankful to those at IH Cooking Clubs in helping to spotlight Jacques Pepin starting this month. See all the wonderful dishes from other participants at IHCC.

I am a lover of duck breasts more than breasts of other poultry. Duck breasts taste complex and flavorful, more like steak than poultry. I buy a magret de canard, and it comes from a Moulard, a duck that is a cross between a Muscovy and a Long Island Peking duck.

Since I like my steak rare to medium rare, I like my duck cooked to the same level of doneness (internal temperature about 135°F). The duck meat should look pink and succulent.

The recipe calls for seasoning duck breast with salt and pepper. Then heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add duck breast, skin side down initially, when the butter is hot and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, shorter or longer to your desired doneness. Transfer the seared duck breast on a rack on a sheet pan and rest in a preheated 250°F oven. (Pepin preheated oven to 180°F which may be too low.) The skin should be brown and crisp when it’s out of the oven. Allow at least another five minutes for resting before the duck is cut.

Next step is to use the drippings in the skillet to make the sauce. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 15-20 seconds. Add dry red wine, balsamic vinegar, bringing to a boil, stirring to melt the solidified juices, and cook until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. What surprises me are the next two ingredients to be added to this classic French sauce: ketchup, A1 steak sauce and water. (This must be an adaptation for the American cooks.) Bring to a boil and cook for another minute. Drain off any liquid that has accumulated around the duck and add it to the sauce.

In my opinion, it’s good to slice the duck breast about 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal, which makes it tender. Strain the sauce with a fine-mesh strainer if you prefer a smooth and silky sauce. Drizzle the duck with the red wine and balsamic sauce. Sprinke with fresh chives and serve. I used parsley because that’s what I had.

A few tips: I’d add another step at the beginning: rendering the duck fat. Score the duck skin in a crosshatch pattern with a sharp knife, cutting into the layer of fat and careful not piercing into the meat. It’s important when there is a thick fat layer. Should there be enough fat left in the skillet than is needed to make the sauce, I’d save the duck fat for later use. Duck fat is good fat and adds complex flavor to potatoes, grains or beans. If there are duck leftovers, I would dice and incorporate them in a salad or a sandwich with artisan bread, like what you would with bacon. They add instant elegance to any dish!

You’ve got a great meal served to you from your favorite French bistro, and better, in the comfort and intimacy of home.

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  • Reply
    Deb in Hawaii
    April 8, 2015 at 8:41 pm

    That is some gorgeous duck–it looks positively delectable with the red wine-balsamic sauce. Very happy to have you cooking with us and Chef Jacques! 😉

  • Reply
    kitchen flavours
    April 10, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Delicious duck dish! I can picture having this in a restaurant! Looks delicious, you have selected a fabulous recipe to welcome JP into your kitchen!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2015 at 11:39 am

    wow, what a gorgeous meal you prepared for Pepin's first week, I would love duck. It's hard to get around here 😪

  • Reply
    Joyce Rachel Lee-Bates
    April 13, 2015 at 3:11 am

    Wow, this is a great choice! The pinkish hue of the duck is gorgeous!

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 3:25 am

    It has been fun and I like to cook more classical French dishes. You'll see more of me.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 3:28 am

    When I see duck confit and duck breasts on sale, I'll order a good amount and save them in the freezer for the right occasions. That works for me!

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 3:31 am

    There were plenty of times when duck breasts were overcooked in the restaurant. I'm glad you like yours pink as well.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Thank you so much. There are so many great recipes to choose from Pepin's long career. Good for us!

  • Reply
    Joanne T Ferguson
    April 13, 2015 at 9:41 am

    This looks absolutely wonderful and am salivating for some now! Great Jacques Pepin recipe and well done on completing the IHCC challenge! Am a newbie! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 10:17 am

    I love duck, my husband does not;-) I'd like to try your dish, it looks appetizing.

  • Reply
    April 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Thank you very much for the kind words regarding IHCC.We love having you participate!

    This gorgeous duck is a fantastic way to start off our venture with Jacques Pepin. Your duck looks perfectly cooked, just the way I'd like to enjoy it. The sauce sounds simple but very complimentary to the flavor of the duck. This is a perfect example of how elegant and sophisticated doesn't always mean lengthy and fussy. Gorgeous food can be quick and easy.

  • Reply
    Ms Howtheylived
    April 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    What great cooking ideas! I think you're very brave to do duck, I've always found it difficult! Yours looks fantastic.

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