There’s nothing in the world like the rich, earthy flavor of duck fat and duck meat. I especially like it combined with a sweet or tart sauce. And the variations on this theme are endless.
I thought up this recipe one afternoon when I was trying to figure out how to use a big bottle of cranberry juice I had left over in the fridge. I didn’t end up using much cranberry juice, but the results were heavenly.
I got the idea of combining soy sauce and balsamic vinegar from Ming Tsai, a master of east-west cooking. The thyme in this dish also gives a Western flavor balance to the brown sugar and soy.
East-West Cranberry Duck Breasts
2 duck breasts (about six ounces each)
2 tablespoons balsamic
2 tablespoons soy
2 tablespoons cranberry juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
4 sprigs of thyme
1 shallot, minced
4 tablespoons dried sweetened cranberries
1/4 cup dry oloroso sherry
1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
Soak the dried cranberries in the sherry, warmed to about 110 degrees in the microwave or in a bain marie. Let sit for a half hour.
Mix all the ingredients, except the shallot, duck, salt and pepper, in a bowl. When the cranberries are finished soaking, add them along with half the soaking liquid to the bowl.
Remove any excess fat from the duck breasts and score the skin. Salt and pepper lightly.
Heat an ungreased frying pan. Cook the duck breasts for 5 minutes, skin side down, over medium-high heat.
Turn them over and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the duck breasts to a plate.
Drain all but a teaspoon of fat from the pan and add the shallots. Cook for about 1 minute.
Pour in the sauce mixture. Bring to a boil.
Add the duck breasts, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes more, spooning the sauce over the duck breasts as they cook.
Plate the duck and pour cranberry sauce on top. Serve with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots or grilled asparagus.
There are a lot of different sources for duck breasts. I buy Bell & Evans duck breasts because that's what my local store offers. However, I also like the fact that the company supports local farm families. Located in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Fredericksburg, it's the processing plant for 90 family farms within a 100-mile radius. The ducks are free roaming and raised naturally with no antibiotics or growth hormones.