The Only Duck Breast Recipe You’ll Ever Need

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Photograph by Johnny Miller

I like to think of the duck breast as the rib eye of the sky — rich, complex, meaty, and incredibly satisfying. For those who have never cooked duck, its thick layer of fat can be intimidating. But remember: Fat equals flavor, and in this case it insulates the meat from overcooking. Just let 'em ride, skin side down, in a warm pan. The excess fat renders out, the skin gets brown and crispy, and the mild radiant heat gently cooks the meat, keeping it juicy. For an impressive — and nearly foolproof — dinner, drizzle slow-seared duck breasts with this easy sauce and pair them with this simple Fennel-Orange Salad. Or enjoy your duck with anything you'd eat with a nice, terrestrial rib eye.

Slow-Seared Duck Breast [Serves 4]

  • 2 one-lb duck breasts
  • salt

1. Pat the duck dry with paper towels and score the skin in ½-inch intervals with a sharp knife, almost to the meat. This allows the fat to render, giving you crisper skin. Season breasts well on both sides with salt, and place on a plate. Cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to (ideally) 24 hours.

2. Pat the duck dry again and heat a large, heavy skillet on medium-low. Place the duck in the pan, skin side down. As the fat renders, every few minutes tip the pan and spoon it out, keeping just enough to slick the bottom. (Save that fat and use in place of butter later.) If the breasts start buckling, gently press them down until they relax and lie flat.

3. After 30 to 40 minutes (less if the breasts are smaller), or when the meat reaches 120° on a meat thermometer, crank the heat to medium to finish searing the skin, three to four minutes. Flip the breasts and sear for one to two minutes on the meat side. Remove the duck to a plate and let it rest for five minutes before slicing. The meat will be nice and pink, medium-rare to medium.

Honey-Garlic Butter Sauce

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp cold butter

In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer the stock, garlic, honey, and vinegar until reduced by three-fourths; the sauce should be thick but not yet a glaze. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk in the butter until smooth. Serve or keep warm, but be careful not to let the sauce simmer again, or it will separate.

Fennel-Orange Salad [Serves 4]

  • 1 large head fennel, tops and root end removed
  • 2 small oranges
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • olive oil, to taste
  • cider vinegar, to taste

Halve the fennel, from top to bottom, and shave the halves, starting from the root end, very thinly on a mandolin or with a knife. Peel and segment the orange. Toss the fruit and fennel with salt, pepper, oil, and a splash of vinegar.

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