Duck and berries are a classic pairing, and I particularly enjoy blueberries, as their slight acidity punches through the natural fattiness of the duck. While people may be a bit hesitant to cook duck, I urge you to try this recipe. Duck breast is easily one of the most uncomplicated cuts to cook. It should be in everyone’s repertoire of “fast after-work dinners”, and when served with a quick pan sauce like here, it can turn a regular Tuesday into something a bit more special, with minimal effort. Serve with some roasted potatoes and green vegetables.
4 small (hen) duck breasts, or 2 large (drake) breasts
to taste salt and pepper
1 tbsp duck fat
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup port
1 piece orange peel strip, pith removed (use a vegetable peeler for this)
2 thyme branches
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
½ cup blueberries
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cold water
1 tsp butter
- With a sharp knife, score the duck breasts – skin side only – in a cross-hatch patten. Season them with salt and pepper
- Lay the duck breast, skin side down, in a room temperature large pan. Place the pan on a medium heat and cook the breasts, skin down, for about ten minutes, or until the fat has rendered and the skin is golden brown. Flip the breasts and cook on the meat side for an additional 4 minutes, or until an internal thermometer inserted into the center of the breasts reads 135°F (for medium). Remove the duck from the pan and rest, covered to stay warm.
- Meanwhile, start the sauce. In a sauce pot over a medium high heat, melt the tablespoon of duck fat. Add the shallot and garlic to the pot and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook for three minutes or until the shallots start to caramelize. Deglaze with the port, then add the orange strip, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer for one minute before adding the beef stock, blueberries, and balsamic vinegar. Continue simmering for another four or five minutes, until the blueberries have burst and the sauce has slightly thickened.
- At this point the duck breasts should be out of the pan. Drain the duck fat from the pan (save for another use), and place the pan back on the medium heat. Pour the contents of the blueberry sauce into the duck pan, and stir well to get all of the cooked duck bits into the sauce. Whisk the cornstarch and the cold water together, then whisk the slurry into the sauce to thicken. Simmer for another minute – the sauced should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Season to taste before taking the sauce off the heat. Remove and discard the herbs and orange peel. Add the tsp of butter and stir well to emulsify it into the sauce.
- Pour the sauce into a serving dish. Slice the duck breast, fan it out over the sauce, and serve.