When Gretchen gets a craving, as she did last night when she proclaimed that she needed duck breast, I jump at the opportunity to run to the store and experiment. I immediately darted off to Wegmans knowing it’s the only local market that seems to regularly carry quackers.
I grabbed a single Magret duck breast (not cheap at over $11) and a jumbo pack of paper towels when I realized that a duck without sauce can be somewhat boring. I remembered we had a bottle of red wine on top of the fridge, so I decided to make a simple red wine reduction. My mind wandered and the next thing you know I had Marcona almonds, died tart cherries and green olives balanced atop my jumbo pack of paper towels.
Yes, I know what you’re probably thinking, Duck, butter, red wine, cherries, all that sounds completely natural so what the heck are the green olives for?
Trust me on this one, the green olives in this dish empart a subtle briney flavor to the sauce while transforming themselves with all the mellow and rich flavors of cherry and wine. Even if you think you hate olives, you need to try this, they won’t taste like any olive you’ve ever had.
Take one bite and you might find that you’ve upstaged the duck here.
- One Magret duck breast per person
- Marcona Almonds
- Dried Tart Cherries
- Quality Red Table Wine
- Quality (not canned) Green Olives
- Unsalted Butter
- Prep a searing pan and a sauce pan of your choosing, size them appropriately for how many breasts you’re making. This particular recipe is written for a solo experiment, but will scale as needed. As far as your searing pan, you can feel free to use non-stick here, the duck should release from the pan when it’s just about ready.
- Add two tablespoons of butter to your saucier and melt over medium heat. Add about a cup of red wine.
- Chop 3-4 green olives (pit them if they aren’t already pitted) and add to the sauce along with 5-8 tart dried cherries. Think about your flavors here, if you want something a little more briney, go heavy on the olives. If you want something a little more fruity, go harder with the cherries. At the end of this recipe you’ll end up with tart cherries that aren’t tart and briney olives that aren’t briney, so expect them to mellow a lot. In a pinch, you could easily use dried cranberries, but I wouldn’t sub out the cherries for raisins.
- Turn the heat on your sauce to high until your sauce starts boiling.
- Score the fat side of your duck breast, then lay your meat fat-side down in a cold pan. Start the pan over medium to medium low heat to slowly render some of the fat. Hit the flesh side with a little salt and pepper to taste.
- Keep an on on that sauce, is it boiling? Turn it down to simmer as soon as it starts a boil. You’re going to want that wine to reduce over half, but go at it slow. Stir it. Give it a taste. What is it missing? Salt? Go light because it’s still reducing. Want something a little more unctuous? Spoon in some duck fat. Missing a little balance to the wine? Add a half tablespoon of sugar or honey, but please be careful because you don’t want a sweet sauce at the end here.
- Resist the urge to poke and peek at that duck. Have faith and leave it alone. Eventually fat will start pooling in the pan and you’ll hear it popping and crackling, but if it doesn’t want to move yet, don’t force it. Eventually, it will wiggle free with light coaxing and you can flip it to the other side to finish. Use your instant-read thermometer to keep an eye on it. You want an internal temperature of 130°.
- Once it hits 130°’ pull the duck off to a cutting board to rest. Your sauce should also be done about now, so get ready to plate. Hit the sauce with a little bit of pepper to add some depth, but keep tasting so you know what you’re doing.
- After the duck rests for 3-5 minutes, slice up your duck on a bias, spoon the sauce over and decorate with the olives and cherries. Add some marcona almonds and eat.