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Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Sherry, Honey & Thyme Sauce

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Serves four.

  • To learn more, read:
    Cook Duck at Home
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 62

You can dress up this dish by adding a few dried figs, if you like. Trim off the stems and, depending on their size, halve or quarter them. Soak the figs in the sherry for 10 minutes and then drain them, reserving the sherry. Add the sherry as directed and add the figs to the sauce along with the broth.

  • 4 boneless skin-on duck breast halves (about 2 lb. total)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 cup homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. lightly chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter

Heat the oven to 425ºF. Rinse the duck breasts and pat dry. Trim any silverskin from the meat side of the breasts. Scrape the tendon out of the tender, if it’s still attached, and pat the tender back in place. Trim the edges of the skin so there’s about 1/4 inch overhang . With a sharp chef’s or boning knife, score the skin in a 1/2-inch crosshatch pattern . Try to cut only through the skin and not into the meat. Season the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Sherry, Honey & Thyme Sauce Recipe
Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Sherry, Honey & Thyme Sauce Recipe

Heat a large ovenproof sauté pan or skillet (don’t use nonstick) over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Put the duck in the pan, skin side down, and let it sear. As fat collects in the pan, spoon it off once or twice . When the skin turns medium brown, after about 6 minutes, reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until much of the fat is rendered from the duck and the skin looks crisp and deep golden brown, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Sherry, Honey & Thyme Sauce Recipe
Pan-Roasted Duck Breasts with Sherry, Honey & Thyme Sauce Recipe

Flip the breasts skin side up, spoon off any remaining fat, and put the pan in the oven. Roast until the duck is cooked to your liking: 3 to 4 minutes for medium rare and 5 to 6 minutes for medium well. To check for doneness, cut into a breast or use an instantread thermometer: 135°F for medium rare, 155°F for medium well.

Transfer the duck to a plate or platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Set the pan on mediumhigh heat and pour in the sherry and sherry vinegar. Immediately scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to release any cooked-on bits. Boil until the liquid has reduced to about 2 Tbs., about 3 minutes. Add the broth, honey, thyme, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Boil until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and blend the butter into the sauce by consisteantly stirring or swirling the pan. Slice the duck thinly on an angle, arrange it on heated plates, and spoon the sauce over or around it. Serve right away.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 460; Fat (g): fat g 28; Fat Calories (kcal): 250; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 10; Protein (g): protein g 42; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 3; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 610; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 190; Fiber (g): fiber g 0;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This recipe works very well and is surprisingly easy. This was the first time I had made duck and the detailed instructions, background, etc were a big help. I think it will go much easier next time as I have made it once - and I will make it again. The duck is tender and favorable and the pan sauce adds a nice flavor that can also be used to add flavor accompanying vegetables. I made oven roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled asparagus and the entire meal was very tasty. I might make more sauce next time with that in mind. Highly recommended

I've made this recipe twice and it is easy and very flavorful. The first time, I used local, small duck breasts and the cooking time was the same as what the recipe called for. The second time, I used the larger, French magret breasts and the cooking time was much longer to get to medium. I would suggest doubling the sauce. I also added figs the second time around- they made the sauce a bit sweeter, but the seeds became prolific so I strained the sauce and added the warmed figs at the end. I made the sauce ahead of time and mixed it with the pan juices after cooking the duck and draining off the fat. I paired it with the Alsatian Onion Tart and it was a lovely main course for a small dinner party.

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