Some dear friends arrived on our doorsteps a few weeks ago with a gift….6 whole duck, thankfully cleaned, and frozen after bringing them back from their recent gaunt bird hunting. So, these beautiful, wild ducks sat in our freezer until last week when I conquered by fears of butchering and cooking these beauties. (Basically, I needed my freezer space back.)
After speaking with chef friends and duck lovers on how to best prepare them I slowly thawed them in the fridge and gently cut away their plump, gamey breasts and began the two-day process of marinating them.
(And, have no fears, the birds didn’t die in vain, the remaining duck and bones for stock preparation.) After two days of intense, aromatic marinating, taking away their gamey quality, then high-heat searing and roasting, the result was a juicy, highly flavorful dish that pleased our duck loving dinner crowd.
Served with single vineyard Byron Pinot Noir from various sites throughout California completed this dinner on Dumont. Details and recipe below, don’t feel the need to shoot your own birds, simply stop by your favorite Central Market or Royal Blue Grocery and pick up a few.
Recipe: Provençal Duck
For the marinade:
6 large duck breasts
3 cups Cognac, brandy or Madiera (I used a combination of all based on what I had in my cellar…but I would use the real stuff, not cooking wine.)
1 tablespoon salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic, cut in half
4 stems rosemary
8 stems fresh parsley
5 stems fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence + 1/2 extra teaspoon dried lavender
1/2 small white onion, roughly chopped
To marinade the duck: Add all ingredients except duck and salt and pepper to a large plastic bag. Season both sides of duck with salt and pepper, then place in the bag with the marinade. Seal the bag and place on a small sheet pan in your refrigerator for 2 days, massaging the marinade into the duck, and flipping the bag every so often.
When you are ready to cook the duck, remove from the fridge to take a bit to the chill off for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place an oven-safe skillet on your stove over medium/medium-low heat.
Remove the duck from the marinade and cut small slits diagonally one way, then the other, into the fat side of each breast to score it. Then place each breast fat side down on the very hot pan to sear it, rendering out the fat.
Don’t overcrowd your pan, use two pans if necessary to ensure even cooking. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, until the fat side is golden brown and most of the fat has rendered (cooked) off. Flip over in the pan and place in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees (maybe 5 minutes). Remove the pan, flip back over to the fat side and cook for 1 more minute just to give the fat a touch more crispiness. Remove the pan from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. Slice and serve with your favorite starch, like duck fat potatoes, buttery noodles, or herb infused couscous.
Remove the pan, flip back over to the fat side and cook for 1 more minute just to give the fat a touch more crispness. Remove the pan from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. Slice and serve with your favorite starch, like duck fat potatoes, buttery noodles, or herb infused couscous.