Herb Brined Roast Duck Breast with Blackberry Peppercorn Chutney
We have a new favorite duck recipe! And trust me, were picky! We had a beloved restaurant in Alaska, Haute Quarter Grill, and their duck was the bomb diggity. Yeah, it’s a technical and socially relevant term (haha), so back off! Anyway, I did not have a single duck dish there that I did not like. In fact, I never had a single thing there I didn’t like at all. A little known snobbery fact about me is that I have a difficult time going out to eat at a nice restaurant. I am always thinking to myself that I could do it better. I have encountered very few places where I was pleased with my $40-$50 dish. But Haute Quarter Grill was legit. And their duck, along with their blackened prime rib were may absolute favs! I decided, however, it was time to expand my horizons! I was going to branch out in my duck preparation. And boy were we glad I did!
This dish has a simple elegance to it. It really is not that complicated. Tackling a duck breast is an easy way to dip your toes in the duck pool. Scoring and preparing an entire duck can seem like a daunting task to some people, myself included!!! But the breast really is quite simple. And adding flavor with a brine (which is what I did here) is another culinary trick that will have you thinking, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”.
And Chutney, sounds fancy right? Well it is a dump and stir kind of dish, but elegant. You basically add everything to the pan and let it reduce, stirring along the way. Excited yet?
So, without further delay, let’s get into this. Shall we? :)
For the Duck:
4 duck breasts
¾ oz package poultry herbs, fresh (preferably)
2 cups water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup salt
Create a brine by combining the water, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, salt and poultry herbs into a bowl that will fit the brine liquid, as well as 4 duck breasts. (The poultry herbs can typically be found packaged together by the other fresh herbs at your grocery store. If you cannot find them however, you’re looking at thyme, sage and rosemary.)
Add the duck breasts, cover and refrigerate for 3-6 hours. You can get away with a little more. But I would be cautious about brining this over night because of the acidity in the apple cider vinegar. But if you have to do it before work and it pushes 7-8 hours, you’re safe.
Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the duck from the brine and pat it dry. LIGHTLY salt and pepper the duck. The brine will have added some saltiness to the meat, so you don’t need to overdo it.
Find a pan that will fat the 4 breasts nicely. I prefer to use a cast iron skillet. Using a pan that is thick and made of a material such as cast iron will create a consistent and even heat. (Trim excess fat if there is any. Mine were already trimmed. I also chose not to score my duck fat since the fat layer was thin. If you have a thicker layer of fat, take a sharp knife and make a checkerboard/crosshatch pattern in your duck fat by carefully slicing into the fat only, 3-4 scores per direction.)
Heat up your pan on the stove top, and lay the duck breasts into it, skin side down. Sear for 5-7 minutes or until the skin is getting brown and crispy. Flip the duck and cook the other side for 1 minute.
You will want to reserve the duck fat at this point, draining the excess from your pan. You may want to remove the breasts from the pan if you don’t feel like you can drain the pan without dumping the duck overboard. (I saved my duck fat and used it to cook my greens it. Always save duck fat!!! Mashed potatoes, sautéed greens, or anything else you would use fat, oil or butter for… use duck fat! It is delish!)
Return the duck to the pan, skin side down and transfer to the oven. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes for a medium rare cook. You can eat duck medium rare. You won’t get sick, I promise. But if this terrifies you, feel free to tack on a few extra minutes.
Transfer to duck to a cutting board, skin side up (so the skin stays perfectly crispy) and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Slice across the width of the duck, and top with the Blackberry Peppercorn Chutney. You can serve it over greens as I did, potatoes, roasted parsnips or whatever you chose. :)
For the Blackberry Peppercorn Chutney:
12 oz blackberries
1-2 tbsp green (and/or) pink peppercorns
¼ cup diced yellow onion
½ cup fruit infused balsamic vinegar (I used pear)
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ tsp cooking oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger paste
Add the slightest bit of oil (olive, grapeseed, whatever) to your pan; just enough to cook off the onions. Add your onions and peppercorns and stir for 2-3 minutes or until the onions begin to look more transparent.
Add the ginger paste and stir another minute or so.
Add the blackberries (whole), vinegars, brown sugar to the pan. Stir until all ingredients are mixed. Reduce the burner to medium low heat.
You’re pretty much just going to allow the vinegars to reduce, the sugars to come out of the blackberries and allow the flavors to cook together and form an almost jelly like consistency. This will take 30-40 minutes. All you need to do it watch the dish and make sure it doesn’t burn. Stir every 4-5 minutes. Towards the end, when it thickens up, stir every 1-2 minutes. Since the liquids will have reduced, the sugars are a little more likely to burn. Your chutney will also thicken up once removed from heat.
Use a spoon to top the duck with the yummy Blackberry Peppercorn Chutney. :)