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Duck Breast with Saba and Grapes

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Serves four.

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 101

Reduced grape must (saba) boosts the grape flavor in this rich, sweet sauce. Serve with wilted spinach and roasted turnips or potatoes.

  • 4 small or 2 large boneless duck breasts (1-3/4 to 2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups seedless Autumn Royal or other purple or red grapes
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup lower-salt chicken broth
  • 3 Tbs. saba
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

With a sharp knife, score the duck skin in a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut all the way through to the meat. Season the duck all over with salt and pepper. Put the duck skin side down in a cold 12-inch skillet. Cook over medium heat without moving, spooning off the excess fat occasionally, until the skin becomes light golden-brown, 8 to 9 minutes.

Loosen the duck from the pan with a spatula. Raise the heat to medium high and continue cooking, skin side down, until the skin is thin, crisp, and browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the duck and continue cooking until an instant-read thermometer registers 135°F in the thickest part of a breast for medium rare, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the duck to a plate.

Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat from the skillet. Add the grapes and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until lightly browned but still firm, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the grapes to the plate with the duck. Add the shallot to the skillet and cook until slightly softened, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring up the browned bits, until all the liquid evaporates, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth and saba and boil until the mixture reduces to 2/3 cup, 5 to 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the grapes, duck, and any juices from the plate to the skillet. Simmer gently for about 1 minute, turning the duck to coat it with the sauce. Thinly slice the duck and divide it among 4 plates. Spoon the sauce and grapes over the duck. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve immediately.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 320; Fat (g): fat g 12; Fat Calories (kcal): 110; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 3; Protein (g): protein g 27; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 21; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 390; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 140; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I found this recipe because I had bought saba for something else and had a lot left over. This was delicious-- much better than what I had originally bought the saba for! We love duck but had never tried to cook it at home-- it was so easy! Almost idiotproof. We did find that ours took much less time to cook than was suggested-- specifically we only cooked it for five minutes after turning it over and it was already medium well. Still, it was surprisingly delicious and juicy even given that. This is definitely a "for company" dish. When we do it again (which we definitely will), I will use more grapes (at least two cups).

I made this recipe for my dad's girlfiend who loves duck. I was alittle intimitaed due to the fact that I never cooked duck. But, as I expected the recipe was amazing. The duck was soft and sweet and the sauce was to die for... Very impressive.

I love learning about new ingredients and ordered saba from Gourmet Sardinia as suggested. The fruity flavor of the saba contrasted nicely with the fattiness of the duck. I used seedless purple grapes-unfortunately not from the farmers' market. The method of cooking duck breast is the best no matter what sauce you finish with. Served with roasted turnips cooked in a little duck fat, sauteed kale from our garden and a fall salad from the Fine Cooking website. I also drizzled a little saba over blue cheese this weekend. A versatile product worth trying.

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