Other than salt and pepper, Nigella Lawson’s “Roasted Duck Legs and Potatoes” requires nothing else but thyme and time. Indeed, not since discovering Marcella Hazan’s onion-and-butter tomato sauce, have I come across a recipe that requires so little yet delivers so much.
After months of sheltering in place and thinking we deserved a treat, my better half suggested splurging on a delivery from D’Artagnan, a purveyor of organic meats, poultry, and sausage as well as luxury items like foie gras, wild mushrooms, and truffles. Known for high quality, they cater to some of the finest restaurants in New York City. As might be expected, they’re also expensive.
I’ve always enjoyed duck, but for some odd reason I rarely prepare it at home. I’ll keep saying we’ll have it for dinner sometime soon, but that sometime never seems to come. But yesterday afternoon, I saw fresh duck breasts at a nearby market and grabbed them. The die was cast: we were having duck for dinner.
Duck breast, sometimes referred to as magret, is relatively easy and quick to prepare. They can be prepped and cooked in about 30 minutes. What’s more, the fat that’s rendered while browning the skin can be used for a side of thinly sliced potatoes. And the pan sauces that can be prepared from the fond at the bottom of the pan are countless.
My source for this recipe is from two Wine Spectator videos that are available online.The original recipe uses a blueberry and red-wine sauce, but not having any blueberries on hand and perhaps being a little lazy, I chose to make a simple pan sauce with some French Sauternes and golden raisins.
Duck Breasts with Sauternes and Golden Raisins Adapted from The Wine Spectator
2 fresh duck breasts, each about 3/4 pound
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup, approximately, Sauternes
1/2 cup, approximately, golden raisins
For the potatoes:
2 baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
Italian parsley 1/2 cup chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
Duck fat from cooking breasts
1. With a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts making the squares as small as possible without cutting into the meat.
2. Season the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper.
3. Place scored breasts in a cold skillet with the skin side down. Turn heat on to medium- or medium-low heat. Cook gently for 8 minutes, rendering the fat. Drain off most of the fat before it browns, reserving fat in the frying pan that you’ll use for the potatoes.
4. Cook the breasts on medium-high for 4 minutes or until the skin side is well browned and crispy. Then flip the breasts over and cook skin side up on medium heat for 8 minutes.
5. Remove the breasts from the pan and cover loosely with foil to keep warm and set aside.
6. As the breasts are cooking, turn up the heat on the pan with the duck fat and, when it is hot, add the potato slices. Make sure the pan is not overloaded; the slices should fit loosely. About 30 seconds before the potatoes are finished, add the parsley and the garlic. The potatoes are best served as soon as they are done.
7. While the potatoes are cooking, make the pan sauce. Drain all but a tablespoon of the fat from the pan in which you cooked the breasts.
8. Turn the heat to medium and deglaze the pan with about a cup of the Sauternes, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Toss in about a cup of the golden raisins, raise the heat to medium high, and reduce the sauce, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
9. Slice breasts in 1/4″ slices. Lay slices on warm plates in a fan. Place the potatoes on the side.
10. Spoon the pan sauce over the meat and serve.
Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir, Chinon