This dish is deceptively simple, and is a great technique for preparing duck breast with any kind of sauce. We think the port pairs so well with the richness of the duck, and who can resist a dish with figs? Serve over a disc of polenta pan-fried in a little hazelnut oil and a simple salad of mixed greens for an exquisite meal.
4 6-8 ounce boneless duck breasts, skin intact (or 2 larger duck breasts, 8 ounces per person)
Sea salt and freshly ground white peppercorn, to taste
For the port demi-glace:
6 fresh figs, halved (or dried if out of season)
1 teaspoon of whole white peppercorns
½ teaspoon finely minced chervil (or parsley)
1 cup ruby port
Stainless steel sauté pan
Sear the duck breasts:
Score the skin of the duck breasts lightly in a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut all the way through to the flesh. Sprinkle generously with flakes of sea salt and a few grinds of white peppercorn on the skin side. Heat a large stainless steel sauté pan over medium-high heat until it’s very hot. Lay the duck breasts in the dry pan skin side down, searing until the skin is brown and crispy. When ready, the fat will begin to render from the duck and it will release itself from the pan. Turn the breasts over and sear on the other side until the breasts are cooked to your taste. For medium-rare, leave on the second side for 5-7 minutes. Remove them from the pan and set aside covered with tinfoil while preparing the sauce.
[Chef’s Note: Scoring the duck breasts allows the fat to render out and develop a crispy, caramelized skin. If the sauté pan is not large enough to comfortably fit all the duck breasts at once, use two sauté pans. The duck breasts should register 155-160° F on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Be sure to insert the thermometer between the skin and flesh so as not to pierce the skin. The duck will continue to cook while resting, so be careful not to overcook.]
Prepare the port demi-glace:
While the sauté pan is still hot, add the port, whole white peppercorns, and chervil or parsley to the rendered duck fat and deglaze the pan. Using a whisk, scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, and continue to whisk until the mixture is reduced and emulsified. The sauce is ready when reduced to a glaze. Add the halved fresh figs and gently stir until heated through.
[Chef’s Note: if you are using dried figs, reconstitute them by adding them to the port before it begins to reduce.]
Serve with a green salad and polenta fried in hazelnut oil. Place the polenta on the plate, and lay one duck breast over it, then sauce with the port glaze, adding one or two fig halves to each serving.
Recipe and photo by Kelly Cline