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I’ve prepared duck out three different ways over the past few months, the most successful being the duck confit de canard which is roasted in duck fat for a couple of hours then quickly fried.

Saturday night I essayed to tackle a different part of that fowl, cooking the dark meat of the breast. There was a certain amount of consternation on the part of my wife, who always worries when I attempt to try a dish for the first time on company. Her desire for events and food to be presented properly and successfully precludes such daring…or foolhardiness depending on your perspective. She (if she were to actually cook) would cook it once…twice…until completely comfortable and having worked out the kinks to her satisfaction.

Me? I’m fearless or an idiot…again, depending on your perspective.

The peculiarities of the meal were that my brother-in-law is wheat intolerant, so instead of cracked wheat tabbouleh, it was quinoa tabbouleh. For the bread and cheese plate, it was a gluten-free bread baguette…which all agreed was, for a bread, a damned poor substitute. I’m sure for wheat intolerant folks, it would be fine, but for the four of us, even my wheat-fearing bro-in-law, it wasn’t the greatest loaf ever…at all.

I bought a large packet of frozen duck breasts at Berkeley Bowl West, letting them defrost to near room temperature ultimately, and as I was preparing the meal for my brothers-in-law across the bridge in San Francisco, most of the supplementary dishes had to be ready before I got there with my wife on Saturday night. The Asparagus Tabbouleh with Quinoa was ready on Friday as was the simple Broccoli Soup.

All that was left was to cook the duck breasts and make the sauce. And it couldn’t have been simpler. When I slipped what I thought would be two big, fat duck breasts out of its packet, I was surprised and pleased to see about four small half breasts inside, each at about six ounces apiece.

I scored the fatty skin side in a crosshatch pattern, added salt and pepper to both sides, heated up the iron casserole dish, and plopped down the breasts skin side down to sear for about eight minutes. No additional fat required, as the duck fat quickly rendered itself to a sizzling liquid as the breasts cooked. The idea of using a high-sided casserole pot made sense due to the spatters the duck fat provided.

Here is the meat in the pot, just beginning its sear.

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Flip for another three minutes on the other side to bring it to nearly rare, then wrapped in foil for five minutes in a 250 deg oven. Draining the juices from the resting duck flesh after removing most of the rendered duck fat to a separate bowl, I added the meat juices to the juice of a whole lime, two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, and a tablespoon of honey.

Mmmmm! The sear was perfectly crisp and the interior moist, medium rare, and completely succulent.

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Serve!

To be honest, both my wife and I were not overly impressed with the sauce which, while embodying the typical combo of acid and sweet to a meal of duck breast (usually best served close to rare), we both thought the sauce was barely adequate but serviceable. Next time more sweet and perhaps a reduction of a delicious pear or peach.

The French see duck for a weeknight meal as casually as we do chicken. Given the current pricing of duck (I paid about $25 for four breasts), until I can find a cheaper source, unlike a French home’s typical possibilities, duck will remain on the special event calendar only.

Finally, kudos to Ernie and Mike for allowing me to play in their kitchen for the evening. We had a good time, I’m happy the food was successful, and the wine (Pinot noir) linked up lovely with the duck.

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