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Pepper-Crusted Duck Breasts with Cherry-Port Sauce

Scott Phillips

Servings: six.

In this elegant and easy dish, a quick sauce of red wine, port, and cherries tops seared duck breasts. Serve with haricots verts blanched and sautéed in brown butter, then tossed with hazelnuts.


  • 1-1/2 cups fruity red wine, such as Zinfandel, Shiraz, or Merlot
  • 1 cup ruby port
  • One 1-1/4 -inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 to 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh sweet or sour cherries, pitted and halved (about 11 oz.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. coarsely cracked black peppercorns
  • 6 small or 3 large skin-on duck breasts (about 3 lb. total)

Nutritional Information

  • Calories (kcal) : 360
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 100
  • Fat (g): 11
  • Saturated Fat (g): 3
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5
  • Cholesterol (mg): 135
  • Sodium (mg): 370
  • Carbohydrates (g): 20
  • Fiber (g): 2
  • Protein (g): 25


  • Put the wine, port, ginger, and sugar (1 Tbs. for sweet cherries; 2 Tbs. for sour) in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat as needed, and simmer until reduced by half, 8 to 12 minutes.

    In a small bowl, mix the balsamic vinegar and cornstarch. Whisking constantly, add the cornstarch mixture to the wine mixture and simmer until slightly thickened, about 1 minute more. Discard the ginger. Reduce the heat to low, add the cherries, and simmer slowly until the cherries are warm, 1 to 2 additional minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

    Put the duck breasts on a work surface skin side up. Using a sharp knife, score the skin in a grid pattern, cutting just halfway through the thickness of the skin. Season the duck generously with salt. Scatter the cracked pepper on a small baking sheet and press the duck into the pepper, coating both sides evenly.

    Heat a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the duck skin side down and cook until the skin is deep golden-brown and the fat from the skin has rendered, 6 to 8 minutes. Carefully spoon off and discard all but about 1 Tbs. of the fat. Turn the duck and continue to cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast reads 135°F for medium rare, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, warm the sauce over very low heat. Cut each duck breast on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the sauce.


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Reviews (3 reviews)

  • SwampDragons | 05/29/2015

    Stupidly easy. Blazingly fast. Plates beautifully. Delicious. This was a major crowd pleaser when I made it for some foodie friends.

  • jgilton | 12/22/2013

    Excellent! We make it every year for Christmas dinner and even the kids love it.

  • Macaroni | 06/13/2010

    This dish is easy and delicious! Made it for company and they loved it. Was told looked like a dish from a fancy restaurant.

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