Tonight the worthy duck that I started with gave up yet more delicious culinary tidbits. I had two small and nicely trimmed duck breasts waiting to be eaten, freshly defrosted in the fridge. Now normally I would not have frozen something like a duck breast, but I am the only one in my household who will eat duck meat. It would not have been easy for me to devour 3 or 4 duck dishes within the day or two that the raw poultry would have stayed fresh in the fridge. In any event, I decided to make a very simple dish of pan-seared duck breast with a red wine/duck stock reduction and some mushrooms and shallots.
I started by scoring the surface fat on the breasts with a sharp knife. This helps some of the fat to render off and lets the skin crisp up nicely. You want to kind of slowly brown the skin and fat over medium high heat. If the heat is too high you will overcook the meat and leave a layer of mushy fat under the seared skin. I threw them in the pan with a nice amount of butter and left them undisturbed until I felt the skin was at a certain level of crispy perfection.
After reaching this point I flipped the little guys over and continued cooking for a couple minutes. I like duck breast just pink in the center, not over rare like you sometimes see it served.
Next, I poured off the excess duck fat/butter from the pan onto a bunch of nice, tiny yellow potatoes, gave them a shake and threw them into a 400 degree oven to roast. Tiny potatoes, browned in duck fat, with a nice amount of coarse salt and cracked pepper are truly one of the finest things that you can eat.
I threw in some chopped mushrooms and shallot into the skillet with the small amount of remaining fat and kind of used the vegetable matter to deglaze the pan.
When the vegetables had taken some color I threw in about a cup of heavily reduced duck stock (from the batch I made earlier and then froze) and a cup of nice red wine. I let this reduce until it was a nice syrupy glaze, removed from the heat, and threw in a knob of cold butter then stirred well.
I put some slices of the duck breast on a plate, spooned over some of the sauce, and served myself some of the roasted potatoes on the side.
Verdict: There is not too much to say about this dish, it is simple and good and does not involve much technique or fancy ingredients. It is simply a nice, simple way to treat a couple quality pieces of poultry. I enjoyed it very much (especially the potatoes) and the sauce was especially nice. But to tell you the truth, I have never been a huge duck breast fan. I will drool over confit or the crispy skin from a peking duck, but the fairly bland breast has never knocked my socks off. I am the same way with other poultry. Give me a nice chicken thigh or a turkey leg and I am pleased as punch, I think that I am a dark meat kind of guy (my wife is going to raise an eyebrow when she reads this last line, sorry honey!).