Duck breasts carry a conundrum.
They are rich and flavorful enough that any sort of pan sauce you might make really is extraneous, but the lovely fat and drippings you get from cooking just cry out to be used for something.
Usually, wilting some leafy winter greens like spinach or kale in the fat is good enough for me. Every now and then, though, I feel like I need to make a sauce just for the heck of it.
This was inspired by a duck goulash I made a while back. I don’t know as I ever posted that recipe – maybe I will later this week. In the goulash, I decided to offset the fancy Spanish paprika with some dried cherries, duck and cherries being a classic combination.
Here, I use a little bit of flour to convert the fat into a roux, thickening the liquid for the sauce.
It was a bit on the spicy side, so if you are highly sensitive to heat I’d cut the paprika in half (or use a milder one) but I got no complaints from my diners.
The D’Artagnan duck breasts at Price Chopper average about a pound, which the diet people would probably like us to split among four people. One can certainly stretch them that far, but I’m finding they go better between three – two if you’re really hungry. Eating the whole thing yourself would just be greedy. The smaller breasts they have at the Wallingford Locker, on the other hand, should not be divided among more than two people.
Duck in a spicy cherry sauce
- 1 one-pound duck breast
- 1 large handful of dried cherries (about half of a 5-ounce bag), roughly chopped
- 1 small onion (or, if you’re planning ahead better than I did, two large shallots) finely chopped
- Half a cup of sherry (I ran out of Madiera. Port works, too.)
- One-quarter teaspoon of fancy Spanish paprika
- One small spoonful of flour
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 325.
Soak the dried cherries in sherry.
Score the skin on the duck breast and season liberally with salt and pepper. Place it skin-side down in a pan and brown over medium heat.
Once the duck is brown on both sides, slide the pan into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. You don’t want to cook it much past medium rare. When finished, remove the pan from the oven, place the duck on a plate and cover loosely with foil.
On the stove over medium heat, sweat the onions in the duck fat and drippings. When they begin to soften, stir in the flour and paprika. When the flour is dissolved, pour in the sherry/cherry mixture, using a wooden spoon to scrape up and dissolve any crusty bits at the bottom of the pan.
Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Slice the duck breast and pour the sauce over the slices.