Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total preparation time: 30 minutes
Duck and fruit are a classic combination, humans having long ago figured out that the acid in oranges, apples, or pears acts as a great counterbalance to the richness of the duck. Here I’ve used grapes, because I think grapes are unjustly overlooked in cooking – they add sweetness, acidity, and crunch. And once they’re cooked, they become even more grapey.
By the way, if you’ve never before tried duck, you might imagine it’s too fatty and too gamey. Not necessarily true. Duck breast, at least, can be quite lean, and Pekin (aka Long Island) duck breasts aren’t gamey at all. Maple Leaf Farms produces most of the duck you will find in the supermarkets. It comes whole, in halves, and in parts, and is pretty widely available these days. I suggest you cook the breasts with the skin still on, which guarantees better flavor and prevents them from drying out. If you want to avoid the extra fat, just remove the skin before serving. I also suggest you cook them medium-rare for maximum juiciness.
4 Pekin duck breast halves
Kosher salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 cup seedless grapes, halved, plus 4 small bunches for garnish
3 large shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (use a Microplane)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup canned chicken broth or Chicken Stock (Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 32)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon currant jelly
Score the duck skin in a crisscross pattern and season the duck with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat until hot. Add the duck, skin side down, reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the skin is very crispy. Periodically remove and reserve any excess fat that the duck gives off. Turn the duck over and let it cook for 3 more minutes for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, skin side up, and cover loosely with aluminum foil.
Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat to the skillet. Heat over high heat until hot; reduce the heat to medium and add the halved grapes, shallots, and ginger to the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes; add the vinegar and let it simmer until reduced by half. Add the broth, mustard, and jelly and simmer until thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Add any juices that have accumulated on the duck plate and salt and pepper to taste.
Slice the duck at an angle into 1/4-inch slices and serve each portion topped with some of the sauce. Garnish each with a small bunch of grapes.