Every once in a while I like to make something fancy at home — something I would normally order in a restaurant. Usually that means something involving duck, risotto, black cod or panna cotta. Most of the time if I see a seared duck breast on a restaurant menu I’m going to order it. I love the crispy skin, the layer of fat, the medium-rare flesh… its all just so perfect.
Usually when I cook duck its in the cold months and I tend to serve it with a cherry and port compote that I make using frozen cherries. But since fresh, crisp, juicy cherries happen to be in season and this weather calls for a lighter meal, I decided to make a cherry salsa of sorts using some fresh herbs from my window sill and my favorite deep, dark, balsamic vinegar.
To me, a well cooked duck breast is the pinnacle of what meat can be. It took me a while to build up to cooking duck at home, but once I got the hang of scoring and rendering it, I realized it was actually a pretty easy thing to cook at home if you stick to a few tips:
- Score the duck going as far into the fat as you can without cutting into the flesh
- Start with a cold pan
- Don’t take your heat over medium ever
- Drain the excess fat from the pan every few minutes… carefully!
- Finish in the oven
- 2 large duck breasts
- 3 cups of cherries, pitted and cut in half
- 15 mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Score each duck breast in a crosshatch pattern. Season the skin side of each breast generously with salt and pepper.
- Place the duck, skin side down onto a cold non-stick pan and then heat the pan over medium-low heat. When the duck begins to sizzle, raise the heat to medium and cook the duck for 6-8 minutes until the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered
- While the duck is cooking, being careful to avoid splatter and getting oil onto an open flame, drain some oil from the pan every 2 minutes or so. To do this you can either spoon out oil from the pan into a bowl, or you can tilt the pan over and hold the duck in place with a spatula or tongs.
- When the skin is crispy and most of the fat has rendered, salt and pepper the other side of the duck and turn it over in the pan to cook for 1 minutes. Place the duck onto a baking sheet and place into the oven for 5 minutes.
- While the duck is finishing in the oven, toss the cherries, mint, basil, balsamic vinegar and some cracked black pepper in a bowl. taste for seasoning and add more vinegar or pepper if needed.
- Remove the duck from the oven and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice into ¼ inch slices and serve with the cherry salsa.
For more delicious Greenmarket recipes, pick up The New Greenmarket Cookbook online or at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays!