Cooking duck breast to perfection is very easy to do. Here is how!
We are talking about farm-raised duck here, not the wild duck (although they deserve our attention as well). There are many ways to prepare duck (I intend to write up a recipe for confit de canard), but this recipe is my very simple favorite for duck breasts.
The start is so important
First of all, as with most meat preparations, make sure to take the breasts out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to fry the breasts. They should be close to room temperature when you start. This will help to reach a good distribution of the doneness of the meat.
After you take the breasts out of the refrigerator, score the skin side of the breasts (at this point in time, the skin is still cold and firm and easier to score). The scoring of the skin will accomplish two things: the grease of the skin will cook out faster, and the heat will reach the meat under the skin better.
Sprinkle the skin side generously with five spice powder, making sure that the spices get inside the scored lines.
What do we want to accomplish?
The perfectly cooked duck breast has a crispy skin and is medium rare (à point, with a kernel temperature of 55 to 60° Celsius) in the center. If you want to be exact, you could use a meat thermometer, making sure the point of the probe is at the thickest part of the breast.
Heat a skillet on high heat. Do not add oil or butter, but put the breasts skin side down in the pan. This will start the melting of the fat from of the skin. Do not turn the breasts until the skin is crisp. Halfway through, drain off some of the fat.
Turn the breasts over and fry for a minute or so on the other side. Then take the breasts out, wrap in aluminum foil and let rest for at least fifteen minutes.
Slice the breasts in thin slices, and serve with a sauce. I prefer a sweet sauce, such as a cherry sauce.