Pan Sauteed Duck


The “hungry” hubby and I were tossing around the idea of taking the “French Cuisine Boot Camp” at the Culinary Institute of America this summer. Some of our friends might think this as a weird plan for a vacation; who in their right mind would prefer to wake up early and report by 6am to class than to take a relaxing week by the beach in an exotic tropical island. Don’t get me wrong we do enjoy those idyllic getaway vacations but going through the catalog for the class and imagining myself at the CIA for a week is a very exciting notion.  I know it would be nothing like Michael Ruhlman ‘s experience as detailed in his book The Making of a Chef  but it would probably be the closest I can get without quitting my day job.

The class is arranged by regional cuisine and the one I am most interested in is Southwest France, which is discussed on the fourth day. My enthusiasm for this subject springs from  The Cooking of Southwest France” by Paula Wolfert, which has a wealth of information on one of my favorite foods to eat: duck! Duck can be quite a frustration for me because a lot of restaurants cannot cook it the way I like, but those few times I’ve had it right it can be absolutely phenomenal. Even at home, cooking it is a hit or miss. I have tried cooking different types of duck breast like Moulard and Muscovy, but now I’ve decided to try the Pekin duck breast. The recipe I had in mind calls for a shallot vinaigrette and marinating the duck but I did not have enough time to do that so I cooked the duck breast as you would a Moulard that does not need to be marinated first. The method of cooking, pan–sautéed reminded me of  T.W. Barritt’s suggestion of just searing a duck breast in the pan to seal in the flavor and to yield crispy skin, so I guess this would be the perfect time to test this process.

Pan-Sautéed  Pekin Duck Breast with Shallot Vinaigrette

4 boneless Pekin Duck Breast

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

            About 1 hour before serving, remove the duck breast from the refrigerator and while the fat is still cold, use a sharp knife to score the skin in a small 45 degree crosshatch pattern at a 45 degree angle. Dry the breast and sprinkle the sea salt and pepper.

            Heat a large heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the duck breast, skin side down and immediately reduce the heat to moderately low. The fat will start to render and skin will turn brown in about 8 to 10 minutes, tilting to spoon of the fat. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper and flip the duck breast to brown the flesh side about 3 to 5 minutes. Cook the duck to the desired temperature; pinch the meat under the skin side to test for doneness. If it springs back quickly, the meat is rare; if there is some give, it is medium.

           Remove duck and tent with foil to let rest for about 10 minutes. Slice meat crosswise on the bias. Serve with shallot vinaigrette on the side.

Shallot Vinaigrette

            2 large shallots

            3  tbs. balsamic vinegar

             ¼ cup  olive oil
            1 tsp. minced fresh chives

            1 tsp. Dijon mustard

            pinch of salt, sugar, freshly ground pepper

            Soak shallot in balsamic vinegar for 10 minutes. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and let stand until ready to use.

Cooking Notes

            As I have stated before, I do not like medium rare duck, so I was pleasantly surprised that even as I cooked the Pekin duck breast to medium well, it was very tender and succulent. I always had problems cutting the duck breasts on the bias until I figured it out while cutting biscotti; that it was best to start cutting diagonally starting at the center, that way you have a baseline for both ends. The shallot and chives stand up very well to rich texture and taste of the duck. Be sure to use nicely aged balsamic vinegar for the vinaigrette so it   does not interfere with a nice glass of Cabernet to have with your duck! I am very pleased with this method of cooking duck breast and I think this will be my preferred technique from now on. I have seen another method, which uses the broiler, but I think this procedure is good if you want your duck rare to medium rare. I will still try the broiler method, after all this test kitchen will try everything especially if it has anything to do with duck!


14 thoughts on “Pan Sauteed Duck

  1. I think it would be grand to spend a week getting up at 6AM in the CIA!
    The duck seems a success! I'm always one to keep trying, there's always something to learn and maybe it gets even better. If it's not better then you go back to the perfection that was.

  2. Hi Veronica,

    I am sorry, but I just saw your comment for me on my Chicken Satay post! Not sure when you left it, but anyway, just wanted to pop in to say hello. You have great site and great recipes, and your kitchen is great!!!

  3. That duck looks absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations! I will have to try your shallot vinaigrette, and you've inspired me to pick up some Pekin duck breast. You must go to CIA – you will love it!

  4. I totally understand wanting to do boot camp at the CIA…I would love to given the chance. I am reading Ruhlman's other book, The Reach of a Chef, now…really interesting!

    I also love duck but have never cooked it…in fact it's one of my 2007 goals: to cook duck! I will bookmark this recipe…it sounds delicious! 🙂

  5. I've been angling to go to a CIA boot camp for the last couple of years. However, my dream is to do it alone, with no husband or children in tow. And that's where my plan usually bogs down–childcare, carpools, etc. I want all the details if you go however!

  6. i've heard good things about the boot camp. only negative has been other people in the class. some are less serious than others which makes it hard for the chef to teach to both. but i think you can make what you will of it by showing the chef you really want to work and learn. show him or her you want to be pushed.

    and who wrote that "pan-sauteed" duck recipe? now i know why mine never comes out–i've been doing mine in a pot all these years.

  7. For everyone who thought a week at the CIA was a great choice for a vacation THANK YOU SO MUCH, I don't feel weird now about having that instead of a beach vacation or cruise.

    Hi Tanna. The duck was indeed very good, I was pleasantly surprised. Experimenting with duck has always been a mission of mine.
    Rasa Malaysia – thanks for visiting. I love your food on your site. Aside from the chicken satay…I like the ba-kuh-teh recipe that you have up there
    T.W. – I like Pekin…hubby likes Moulard. I'll let you decide, but the cooking in the pan totally worked like you said it would.
    Joey – get cooking with that duck !
    Patricia – for some people, duck is an acquired taste…I find that pekin is a good place to start in terms of taste, it's pretty mild compared to moulard.
    Brandon – i'll surely post about it here when we decide to go. I need the hubby with me , he is my lifeline when it comes to prep work ;).
    Michael – that's one of my reservation in taking the class, because I am interested in the nitty gritty of French cooking.Thanks for the advice. Paula Wolfert wrote the procedure for pan saute , though she does have a recipe for broiler duck breast that I'm going to try next!
    Sarina – glad you love duck…as you can tell from my post I am obsessed with it…my obsession with duck confit is what started this whole blogging business!

  8. A week at a professional cooking school sounds heavenly to me! My Mom and I have always had a fantasy about going to the Ballymaloe cooking School together! Don't know if we'll make it, but hope so!

  9. One of my favourite dishes to order in a restaurant is duck if they have it on the menu but it's one of those meats which I hardly ever cook at home… Really must try and cook more of it especially with this recipe which seems simple enough.

  10. Ohhhh that looks soooooooo good. I am DYING to try duck breast, but Hubbs refuses to. *sigh* Well at least I can live vicariously through you. 😀

    Wonderful job – and I am SO JEALOUS of your upcoming vacation – to me that sounds like the MOST PERFECT vacation ever! I can't wait to hear all about it 😀

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