There are certain dishes we consider our go-to comfort foods -- and way up there on my list is Magret de Canard, or Duck Breast. I conjure all sorts of happy memories of French trips with a perfect Paris dinner of tender Magret de Canard, accompanied by good friends and lively conversation. Come to think of it, it's a perfect Provençal meal, too! This recipe is a lovely way to import a wonderful taste of France using the wonderful bounty of sunny Los Angeles ...and like many good creations, was a happy accident!
I was inspired to make this when I uncovered a forgotten clam shell of blackberries in the back of my fridge. They were sweet and plump, intended for several healthy yogurt breakfasts but had only made it to one morning meal. Now a week later, they were way past their prime and only good if they were going to be cooked somehow. There wasn’t enough for a cobbler or berry compote…and I couldn't throw them out even though they were a little forlorn.
then I remembered the duck breasts I had in my freezer and knew exactly what to do!
2 Boneless Duck Breasts, skin on (fresh or defrosted frozen)
Sea salt and Malabar pepper to taste
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp cumin
2-3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
½ red onion (or 2 shallots) diced
½ cup chicken broth
1 tbsp butter
½ Pint Blackberries
Optional: Splash of Pomegranate juice
Fresh sage leaves
Remove the duck breasts from the fridge, rinse and blot dry with paper towels. With a sharp knife, carefully score the thick fat on each breast with diagonal criss-cross markings. Be sure to cut the fat only and not the meat. Salt and pepper the breasts on both sides, and dust with cumin and Herbs de Provence.
Let the breast rest for about a half hour to reach room temperature and absorb the salt.
Place the duck, scored skin side down, in a heavy skillet at medium flame.
Let them sit in the pan for 2-3 minutes as it heats up, and the fat starts to render. Reduce flame to medium-low and continue to cook the breasts, without moving them, for 5-6 more minutes. There will be a nice pool of duck fat surrounding them. If the skin is not crisp and golden by this time, turn up the flame to medium for another minute or two to crispen the skin.
When they look like this, flip them over:
Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes turning heat to medium.
They are best when served medium rare, which is still very pink in the middle, or about 140 degres on your meat thermometer. Remove breasts from the pan and set aside on a plate to rest.
Use this time to make your reduction sauce.
Drain the pan of the precious duck fat, pouring it into a glass jar to save for another use. It will keep in the fridge for several weeks and also can be frozen.
There will be enough fat left in the pan for you to now to sauté the onions at medium flame for about 3 minutes until they are softened.
Add the butter and let it melt and swirl it into the onion mixture. Add the Balsamic, the broth and if you like, the pomegranate juice, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes to let the glaze reduce.
By now, you will probably see some meat juices collected on the plate where you’ve set your cooked duck breast. Carefully drain the plate and pour that flavorful liquid into your reduction sauce stirring to integrate it. Toss in the fresh blackberries and cook another 2-3 minutes. The reduction should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon but don’t worry if it isn’t too thick – it’s the flavor you really want to enhance your duck and its crispy, seasoned skin. Turn off the flame.
Slice the duck breasts crosswise and on a slight angle, for a “fallen domino” presentation
Plate the duck with the overlapping slices. You could serve two people with one duck breast – although it won't be a lot of meat. I'd be generous and give a whole breast as one serving. The sauce, drizzled over the sliced duck on the plate can be served one of 2 ways:
Strain it through a sieve pushing it through with a wooden spoon for a “thin” glaze, or, as is, as a more rustic, chunky sauce. Either way it will be delicious! Make sure your blackberries tumble nicely on and around the meat. Sprinkle with chopped fresh sage adding a few whole leaves to decorate your plate.
I served this with a mixed grains side dish (rice, flax seed and barley) tossed with lots of chopped parsley and seasoned not with butter but a little lemon vinaigrette.
A nice Petite Syrah or Pinot Noir would be a perfect wine here.