This delightful dish is actually very quick to make (especially if you make the sauce a day ahead) and is as impressive as many restaurant offerings. Duck is becoming much more readily available – I’ve even seen good quality frozen breasts at Costco. Be sure to keep a close eye on the temperature of the duck as it finishes cooking in the oven and the meat will be juicy and fragrant when you serve it up. The delicious sauce is completed using a classic French technique called ‘mounting’ (stirring in bits of cold butter); it is a process which adds flavor, texture and a glossy look to the finished sauce. Pinot noir is an excellent wine to go with this dish. Raspberries can be substituted if you can’t find blackberries.
3 tablespoons butter
3 tbsp white sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons raspberry wine vinegar
1 1/4 c fresh or thawed frozen blackberries
¾ cup each beef and chicken broth
2 tablespoons brandy
1 tbsp maple syrup
4 skin-on duck breasts (5 to 6 ounces each; if larger you may only need 2)
Additional berries for garnish
For the sauce:
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add sugar; swirl pan until sugar dissolves and continue to swirl every 30 seconds or so as mixture caramelizes and turns a deep amber color, about 5 minutes.
- Add wine, orange juice and vinegar (mixture will bubble vigorously) and keep it at a boil. Stir constantly to dissolve the caramel which will have hardened but will melt again.
- Add blackberries and broth and bring to a boil again, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and is reduced to about 1 cup (about 25 minutes). Do not cover the pan as this will inhibit evaporation and reduction.
- Strain sauce through a sieve into a smaller pan (or storage container, if making ahead), pressing on berries with back of spoon. Discard solids.
- Stir in maple syrup and brandy then set sauce aside if using within the hour, or cover and chill.
For the duck:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Trim any excess fat from duck breasts.
- Cut several lengthwise and crosswise slits in skin of duck.
- Season duck with salt and pepper.
- Place the breasts skin side down in an unheated heavy skillet (cast iron is best) with plenty of space between them.
- Turn the heat to medium and sear until skin turns brown and crispy (about 5 – 7 minutes). Note that the skin will release quite a lot of fat as it renders.
- Once the duck skin is uniformly crispy, turn heat up to medium-high, flip the breast and brown the flesh side for 3 minutes.
- Transfer skillet to oven and continue cooking the duck to the desired doneness for approximately 5 minutes. I like “medium” which is 135F. (Note: if your duck breasts are larger than 5 or 6 oz. you will need to increase oven time).
- Remove duck to a cutting board, covering loosely with aluminium foil. Let rest 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring sauce to simmer over low heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and whisk sauce until the butter melts. Taste sauce and add salt and pepper if needed, to taste.
- Slice duck breasts thinly and fan out sliced meat across serving plates.
- Drizzle sauce on top. Garnish with additional berries, if desired, and serve.