Some quite accomplished home cooks are unsure how to cook a duck and this curious fact is the same the world over. However, the answer is quite simple and provided a couple of essential, yet simple instructions are followed, cooking duck breast is really quite straightforward.
1. Remove the duck from its packaging and pat it dry with paper towels until it is quite dry.
2. With a small, sharp knife, make a few small pricks in the duck’s skin, say about a dozen in total per breast. This is important as it will allow the duck fat to render out and the skin to crisp up (in the same way as we do for pork belly). Then rub a very light amount of oil on the bird and season with LOTS of household fine grain salt and some pepper. This is also important as the salt will help draw out the fat which in turn crisps up the skin.
3. Place the breasts skin down in cold oil that has been added to a hot pan and cook on a low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, skin side down, in the pan checking to see if the skin is crisping up as you go. The colour of the duck meat will change up the side of the breast as it cooks through and when the it is two thirds of the way up the side, then it is time to flip the duck breast over (providing the skin is crispy and it isn’t then you need to turn the heat up and blast it on high for a couple of minutes to crisp up). Cook on the skin side on a higher heat for a few minutes to brown, leaving the very centre of the breast slightly pink. Remember it does carry on cooking a little even when the heat is off.
4. Finally, remove from the pan and allow to sit for five minutes before serving or carving. If you are leaving it for only 5minutes before serving then do not cover the bird with foil as this will make the skin soggy which is NOT what you want.
5. TO SERVE: best to cut the breast into slices on the diagonal if possible. One breast per person is ample.
Matching Orange Sauce
Making an orange sauce takes about 8 minutes. THAT’S ALL. Here’s what you do for four people.
Melt three tablespoons of brown or white sugar in a frying pan, stirring as you go.
When it is just about all caramelised add four tablespoons of wine vinegar and stir like crazy (if it goes like toffee, then carry on stirring and add a little hot water or stock).
Stir until a smooth sauce like liquid is obtained, then add some orange juice (4 tablespoons), a little Cointreau if you have it, some Worcestershire Sauce (two teaspoons), some salt and pepper and let cook through for a couple of minutes. Add a little stock or hot water if too thick.
Check for taste and season accordingly.
Finish off with cornflour to thicken (say two teaspoons dissolved into cream or water or mix of both), or butter and cornflour. Stir to thicken. Serve sparingly. Should have a sweet and sour flavour that goes so well with the duck.
This is a good technique to learn as swanky chefs call this sauce a “Gastric”, which comes from the French….and the sugar/vinegar combo is the gastric which serves as the base for many a sauce. You may fail first time round, but just start again as its so quick to make !!