Pan Roasted Duck Breast with Cherry Pecan Sauce

My wife was recently in Estonia for a conference, and while she was there, she was taunting me with sending me pictures of what a beautiful city Tallinn is. For dinner one night, she dined at Kuldse Notsu Kõrts, which translates to “The Golden Piglet Inn.” Since everything on the menu sounded incredible and unique, she sent me a picture of it (which was a problem due to time zones…and the picture making me extremely hungry at a non-meal time)! She got the beer braised moose, but the item that caught my eye was a duck breast entree served with smoky mashed carrots.

Since she didn’t order it, I have no visual basis for comparison, but since I think the chef had such a great idea based on their description, I decided to give it a go and create my take on the meal.

This is Part 1, and it involves pan roasting duck breast and topping it off with a tangy sauce made from toasted pecans and dried cherries. We are serving it with Part 2, Smoky Carrot Puree, and sauteed baby spinach.

Time: 35 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • Duck Breast
  • Pecans
  • Dried Cherries
  • Water
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Brown Sugar

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. (If you’re making the Smoky Carrot Puree as you side, your oven will already be at 350 degrees F, so it should be a quick trip up to 400).
  • Place your duck breasts skin side up on your cutting board, and make cross-hatched cuts. The deeper the cut, the more easily the fat will render during cooking. Be careful however to not cut the meat itself.
  • Give a quick salt sprinkle to the non-skin side of the duck breast, and let sit while you turn your attention to your sauce.
  • Place your cherries in a sauce pan with a little water, and turn the heat on to bring the water to a simmer. This will rehydrate the cherries, and the water will become a nice reddish amber colour.
  • While the cherries are rehydrating, put your pecans into a dry pan, and toast them for about 4-5 minutes until they begin to darken and release their aromatics.
  • Once you’ve got your sauce ingredients in progress, place your duck breasts skin down into a cast iron pan, and turn the heat to medium. The duck fat should start to render fairly quickly. If it starts to boil and pop too much, turn your heat down a little…if you don’t hear anything as the duck is rendering, turn the heat up. Let the duck cook skin side down for between 7 and 9 minutes. By this point, it should be a nice golden brown.
  • While you’re rendering your duck fat, your sauce ingredients should be ready. Put everything together in a blender/food processor/Ninja, and puree. Then, pour it back into your sauce pan, and add water and balsamic vinegar and brown sugar to reach your desired thickness and sweetness/tanginess level. We will heat the sauce later.
  • Flip your duck breasts, and sear for about a minute on the non-skin side.
  • Remove your duck from the pan, and pour out the rendered fat into a ceramic or glass bowl (you can save this for later and use it instead of butter or oil another day!). Then, put your duck back into your pan skin side down, and put the pan in your oven.
  • Roast for about 6-10 minutes depending on your desired level of doneness. Since duck is technically poultry, the FDA recommends an internal cooked temperature of 165 degrees F…since Duck isn’t a common carrier of salmonella, we opted to roll the dice and go with 145 degrees F so our meat was cooked to “medium.” Only you can make the call on your temperature.
  • When your duck is done, remove it from the pan, and let it sit for 5 minutes on a cutting board before you even think about cutting into it.
  • While the duck is resting, heat your sauce.
  • Plate, devour, and enjoy!

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