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Pan-Seared Duck Breast with an Orange-Port Pan Sauce

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

The perfect "fancy" dish for dinner for two... and under 30 minutes!

Pan-Seared Duck Breast
Garnishes: patty pan squash stuffed with caramelized onions and sautéed haricots verts prepared simply with butter and sea salt

Don't be intimidated! You can do it. It really is within reach, I promise. It doesn't event take that long. If your sides are already prepped, it's a 30-minute meal and that includes a luscious and sophisticated pan sauce, made in just five minutes. All you have to do is follow a specific procedure and you will have success. Remember, it's all about technique not torture.

Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; wet measuring cups; measuring spoons; large sauté pan (with straight sides); tongs; wooden spoon


1 whole skin-on duck breast, split kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

½ cup tawny port

½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice

4 sprigs of thyme

2 teaspoons butter

1. Pat the skin and flesh dry of the two duck breasts. Score the skin of the breasts through to the fat--but not top the flesh--in a diamond pattern (approximately 3-5 cuts in each direction). Season the skin and flesh sides generously with salt and pepper.

"Scoring the skin in a cross-hatch pattern helps to render all the duck fat, which facilitates cooking and adding flavor to the otherwise quite lean duck flesh. If done properly, the fat pad renders more or less completely, leaving a delectably crisp skin."

2. Heat the sauté pan over medium-high heat. Put the duck breasts skin side down and cook slowly over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the fat is almost completely rendered and the skin is crisp and deep golden brown.

3. Carefully turn the duck breast and cook flesh side down for 4-5 minutes for medium-rare. Remove the duck to a cutting board to rest before slicing. Pour off all the duck fat into a heat-safe vessel for a later use.

ILOC tip: once all the fat is rendered from the from the breast you can save it for making things like duck leg confit or duck fat-fried potatoes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the quick pan sauce. Return the pan to the heat and add the port as well as the orange juice to deglaze the pan. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while stirring the liquid. Add the thyme sprigs and set the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid has reduced by half, remove the pan from the heat. Discard the thyme sprigs and add the cold butter to the pan, swirling to incorporate and emulsify. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary with salt and pepper.

5. Slice the duck breast on bias using the the diamond pattern as your guide and shingle on a dinner plate. Drizzle with the pan sauce and serve immediately.

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