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Seared Duck Breast


While visiting France, a friend of mine grilled duck breasts and changed my entire viewpoint on duck. I never really liked duck before, but the way that he made it was ridiculously good. When I returned home, I looked for a recipe, and I found one in "The Joy of Cooking" that I used as a starting point. My version is changed quite a bit from the published recipe. To start with, their version used a pan and called for skinless duck breast. My friend used an outdoor, propane griddle and had the skin and the layer of fat under the skin intact. From reading other recipes, it seems like that is the key. Duck is fatty, and that layer of fat renders off as the breast cooks. The result is a juicy, amazing dinner that tastes nothing like chicken or turkey. Cooking outside is also key, unless you enjoy setting off all of the smoke detectors.

Ingredients:

  • Duck breasts, skin on. You will see an obvious layer of fat. Don't worry - that all cooks off.
  • 1lb Brussels sprouts, halved (or some other hard, green vegetable) 
  • A nice bread (optional)


Marinade Ingredients (this is modified from The Joy of Cooking - you can do what you like for a marinade):

  • 3 Tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 shallot (or half a yellow or sweet onion), chopped
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp dried Allspice 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Preparation:
  • Rinse off the duck breasts. The ones that I found were about a pound, each, but they cook down. One per person is probably plenty for 'Muricans. They are also spendy, so you can do one per two people, and add a lot of other side dishes.
  • Using a knife, pierce the skin of the duck in a few places so the fat can drain out when you grill it.
  • Put the duck and the veggies in the marinade and leave them for as long as you can. If you have 10 hours, great. If you have 2 hours, OK. If you have 1 hour - hey, it still going to be good.
Grilling:
  • The advice on grilling duck breast varies from starting with a cold grill, to starting with a hot grill, but my friend in France says hot, so I went with hot. I have a propane griddle so the fire can't reach the duck. This is probably a good thing because an aunt suggested that I would need a fire extinguisher if I used a normal BBQ. If you have a regular BBQ, you can buy a griddle to set on top of it and I think that would be a good idea.
  • Light half of your griddle so you have a hot side and a cool side.
  • Get the griddle good and hot and put the duck on there, skin side down, with all of the marinade and veggies. 
  • Grill the veggies - and then push the veggies over to the cool side.
  • Leave the duck alone, and check with a meat thermometer every 15 min or so. If one end is getting hotter than the other, spin it, but keep the skin down. It might take an hour to get to 145 degrees. 
  • The fat will start streaming out of the bottom of the breast. 
  • When you are almost to 145 - push your veggies back over to the hot side of the grill and fry them up in the duck fat that is streaming off of your duck breasts. 
  • When the duck is at 145, take it all off - duck and veggies - and let it rest 3 min (I don't know why, but it seemed like a good idea)
  • Slice the breast like you would a pork tenderloin and serve with veggies and nice bread or whatever side(s) you have. The skin will be chared so just cut that off.
  • Curse loudly at the fact that you have not made this before now. 


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