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.