I’m not sure I can convey how phenomenal this dish is. Consider this: We’ve made it about 20 times since discovering the recipe on Williams-Sonoma’s site a few years ago. It was our Christmas dinner last year AND our New Year’s feast. And yes, we are having it again this Christmas!
Oh, we are having it again this Christmas and I cannot wait. Probably New Year’s too, let’s just get it out there now.
I had mixed feelings about sharing this recipe because, first, it is so near and dear to our hearts. It’s our little family tradition for special holidays. And my photo and description of it will not do it justice. Plus, I know that duck is much harder to find and more expensive in the U.S. than in Europe; and, not everyone is excited about eating duck. Yes, there’s that.
But, oh, this is heavenly. The flavorful duck in a rich cherry and wine sauce… it’s… it’s… See what I mean? I’m at a loss for words. It’s just that amazingly good. So here I go, sharing our most loved and cherished dish.
Though this comes from a Williams-Sonoma recipe, we always simplify it (by all means, check out the original, fancier version linked below). It calls for port; we use red wine and a dollop of honey to replicate port’s sweetness. It also calls for demi-glace, which we rarely have on hand, so we skip that. And though we usually cook for two, we use the amount of sauce recommended for four (and savor every drop). The recommended cooking times, we’ve found, are spot on for the weight of the duck breasts — you’d need to adjust the time for different weights.
If you try this, and I hope you do, I predict you will be smiling, eyes closed as you eat, and vowing by the last bite to make it again. It just might become your family tradition. Enjoy!
Seared Duck Breast with Cherry & Red Wine Sauce
(A slightly simplified Williams-Sonoma recipe for Seared Duck Breasts with Cherry-Port Sauce, adjusted for 2 people)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 2 boneless duck breast halves, preferably Muscovy, each 6 to 8 oz. (170 to 227 g.)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup red wine (I usually use a smooth northern Italian, Montepulciano or Sangiovese)
- 1 Tbs. honey
- 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the broth until steam begins to rise from the surface, about 3 minutes. Add the dried cherries and remove from the heat.
Season the duck breast halves with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, score the skin by making a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut into the meat.
Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Place the two duck breast halves, skin side down, in the pan and cook until the skin is very crisp and golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Turn the duck over and cook until the meat is just springy when pressed, 3 to 5 minutes more for rare to medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Pour off the excess fat from the pan, reserving the fat for another use. [Note: if you are cooking more than two duck breasts, repeat these steps to cook the remaining duck breast halves — they’ll need to be done in batches of two so they aren’t overcrowded in the pan, which could result in steaming instead of searing the breasts.]
Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat from the pan. Set the pan over medium heat, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and honey, bring to a boil and cook until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and cherries, and cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the butter and stir until completely incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Using a sharp carving knife, cut the duck across the grain into thin slices and arrange on a warmed platter. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Goes well with roasted potatoes or German-style rösti and steamed & buttered green beans.