Don’t Duck the Duck! by Chef Robin Nathan March 3, 2014 by Jill Foucre Leave a Comment I have two favorite restaurant meals . . . whenever I am out to eat and one of them appears on a menu, it’s a safe bet I’ll order it. Just what are these exotic delicacies that a trained chef eats out, you may ask? Something really complicated? Something that takes hours to cook? Something with hard-to-find ingredients? You would be wrong on all counts…they are, drum roll….Seared Duck Breast and Rack of Lamb. And believe it or not, they are two of the easiest things to cook, are ready in minutes, and the ingredients can be found at local markets. For the past 2 years, we have celebrated Valentine’s Day as a family unit (just me, my husband, and son) with a Seared Duck Breast Dinner. Even on a busy weeknight, the meal is ready in just a few minutes. I serve the duck with a farro grain pilaf, a savory cherry sauce, and some steamed asparagus. When I mention to my friends what we’re having for dinner they say “Wow, duck breast. That sounds intimidating.” Rack of lamb has the same rep, but trust me, these dishes are ridiculously easy to cook — they only sound intimidating. You can purchase whole, skin-on duck breast halves from any good, local butcher. Mariano’s also stocks a frozen skin-on duck breast fillet that cooks up very nicely as well. Give this recipe a try and soon you’ll be casually telling your neighbors, “oh, I’m just searing a little duck breast tonight for dinner.” (We’ll take on the rack of lamb in another update!) To quote my 10-year-old son, “Mom, except for the asparagus, that’s the best dinner all year.” Seared Duck Breast with Weeknight Cherry Gastrique 4 Servings 1 T. Olive oil 2 T. Minced shallot ½ C. Best quality cherry jam (I like Bonne Maman) 1 – 2 T. Aged Balsamic vinegar Salt and pepper to taste Four 8 oz. Skin on duck breast halves Salt and pepper to taste To make the gastrique: Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the shallot and sauté briefly until translucent. Add the jam and vinegar and cook, stirring, until the jam has melted and is quite liquid. Add more vinegar if needed to balance the sweetness. Season generously with salt and pepper. (It should not be sweet, it should be tart and fruity.) This can be made early in the day, refrigerated and reheated, or made at the same time as the duck. Prep and Sear the duck: Using a small, sharp knife, make very shallow slices into the duck skin and fat, creating a diamond pattern. Do not cut into the meat, only the skin and fat. This will help the fat to render and the skin to crisp. Season generously on both sides with salt and pepper. Preheat two large stainless steel skillets over medium high heat for 2 minutes, until hot. (Preheat the pans dry—the duck has plenty of fat already!) Add the duck breasts, skin side down. Turn the heat down to moderate-low and sear the duck breasts, without disturbing them, for 4-7 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts. (The smaller fillets will take 4 minutes, full breast halves will take 7.) Turn the duck breasts over and sear an additional 2-5 minutes (again, depending on size.) The duck breasts will be medium rare when you remove them from the heat. Remove the breasts to a plate and tent with foil or drape a kitchen towel over them and let them rest for 3 minutes. As they rest, the breasts will come up to medium doneness. (You should not cook them well done.) If you made the gastrique in advance, warm it up. Slice the duck breasts into thin slices (I like to cut them on a horizontal diagonal). Spoon some of the gastrique onto the bottom of the plate and arrange the slices over. Enjoy!!