breast of duck with a blueberry gastrique

March 16th, 2008 · 13 Comments


a couple of days ago on a whim, i bought some good looking duck breasts that jumped out at me from the refrigerated case at ‘marche‘.later on that afternoon i picked up some mustard greens because they were on sale and i was thinking of using them in a white bean soup. and earlier in the week i had bought a hefty container of blueberries that i somehow hadn’t gotten around to eating. and lookey here. it all turned into dinner.

i love it when this happens. it makes me feel like i have a clue… it’s truly baffling how this could be, but i’d actually never cooked duck breasts before. so i consulted with a friend and then looked at a few ‘how to cook a duck breast‘ sites – and i was off and running.

you score the fat in a crosshatch pattern – taking care to not cut into the meat. salt and pepper the breasts and place themin a cast iron pan, skin side downon a low to medium heat and slowly render out all the fat – and it’s a remarkable amount. i drained off the fat as it cooked, saving it for another time – and when the skin had crusted over just right, i turned them over and browned the bottoms. being that they were pretty thick, i checked them with a thermometer and then threw them in the oven for about 5 minutes to finish. the breasts were still medium rare and the skin was crisp. note: these were some big breasts. i weighed them both and they were an exact kilo. over a pound a breast. if this duck had been a country singer, its breasts were the dolly parton’s of duck boobs. but to get technical the duck was not a country singer (it just plays one on tv), but a moulard magret. and the taste was ok – but not what i was after. the meat wasn’t that"duck like" -it was more of a nondescript kinda thing. so i think my next duck breasts will be from a muscovy. much smaller but with a perkier flavor… (hehe).

the idea for a blueberry sauce came from the memory of a dinner over 20 years ago at a well loved, small and ultra quaint restaurant on the upper east side called ‘provence‘. i’d forgotten about the place and it seems that they had closed their doors for a bit, but then unbeknownst to me, reopened down in the village on macdougal street. i’ve not been since the big move but from the pics on their website, the vibe of the place feels about the same. very southern french – very pierre deux in decor. it’s a definite ‘look’. my mom’s a big fan.


(but i digress)

so then it was all about making a gastrique – a reduction of red wine, vinegar, sugar and fruit. d’artagnan had a blueberry version on their site that went a little something like this. ready? a one anda two anda…

Blueberry Gastrique:

4 cups dry Red Wine
2 cups Sugar
1cup Banyuls or Sherry Vinegar
4 cups fresh Blueberries

Bring wine to the boil and reduce by half. Place sugar in a clean dry copper pot. Cook over medium heat without stirring. When the sides of the pan begin to caramelize, stir with wooden spoon to even out the color. Off heat, carefully pour vinegar in caramelized sugar. Add reduced wine and berries. Return to heat and whisk until well blended. Bring to simmer and reduce until proper consistency. Season with salt and white pepper. Brighten with fresh lime juice.


sounds excellent, right? well hey – pssssst…. c’mere – cause here’s what you can do. first off, i halved the above recipe which is plenty of sauce for 4 – with extra. you just put the vinegar, wine, sugar, salt and pepper into one pot. reduce it down to about half then add the berries and cook around another 3 minutes and then remove from heat and add the lime juice. and it was quite good. next time i’ll add the sugar first and caramelize lightly for added depth of flavor – and then add the wine, reduce it down and then add the vinegar and simmer. but i was moving fast… the chopped mustard greens were thrown into a pot with a bit ofwater. after they wilted they were hit with a glug of olive oil, avery finely minced cloveof garlicand some salt. these particular greens added a really welcome pungent aspect to the dish.

a quick dinner on a saturday night…

Tags: duck

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 democommie // Mar 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm


    Your comment about the unduckiness of the duck breasts raises a question for me.

    I have not eaten lamb all that much but I remember when it was much “gamier” than it seems to be these days. And I’ve heard from other people that their “wild game” was yummy–
    “tasted just like beef tenderloin!”. The guy who I rented a room from while I was house hunting last year was a hunter. He shot 2 or 3 deer and ate venison steaks for breakfast sometimes. He also came home one day with a canada goose just took the breasts off. The meat was the color of tuna and I’m sure it tasted pretty wild.

    Is the mildness of the duck you had and the lamb of today the result of trying to raise these animals to be “inoffensive” or do you think I just have had a few bad experiences over the years?

  • 2 Mari // Mar 17, 2008 at 4:01 am

    “…its breasts were the dolly partonís of duck boobs.”

    You’re killing me, I nearly snorted my green tea through my nose!

  • 3 Donald // Mar 17, 2008 at 5:01 am

    Claudia, nice breasts!

    We love duck. Funny thing, I roasted a whole duck just last night and had it with Francois’ Sicilian broccoli! Soon to be on the blog. I was surprised though, for a whole duck, Beck and I got a serving each with about a serving and a half leftover. Either the duck’s just don’t yield much or we’re pigs.

  • 4 Mary Coleman // Mar 17, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Been to Provence on Macdougal several times. Love that place. I have some magret duck breasts in the freezer I ordered from D’artagnan.
    I need to get inspired to prepare them. Glad to know they’re available in town as well.

  • 5 The Italian Dish // Mar 17, 2008 at 7:29 am


    I’m totally impressed. What a way to bring all those ingredients together. You da man!


  • 6 robin (caviar and codfish) // Mar 17, 2008 at 7:54 am

    I’ve never made duck breasts before either… but now I want to. Perfect Claudia!

    democommie: I think gaminess is tastes at its heights when you’re eating wild animals or parts of wild animals that are either older or the muscles of the part you are eating have gotten a lot of exercise. So, you’ll taste a lot of gaminess in venison chuck, but less in duck breast. And, like Claudia say, the kind of duck matters for that duck taste she’s going for.

  • 7 lucy // Mar 17, 2008 at 8:53 am

    you buy ducks breasts on a whim; i buy nutella.
    you win.

  • 8 democommie // Mar 17, 2008 at 11:02 am


    Thanks for the comment. I accept that to some extent. I know that a lot of game is also incredibly stressed at its time of death so that may contribute.

    I’m just wondering more about formerly wild animals that are now “farmed”, for instance salmon, shrimp–that sort of thing. But your explanation is probably the correct one.

  • 9 katy // Mar 17, 2008 at 11:33 am

    duck is one of my top 3 favorite culinary indulgences. breasts are inevitably leaner and less flavorful than legs (my favorite) but still delicious!

  • 10 cary // Mar 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    breast of dolly, hmmmmm…

  • 11 michelle @ TNS // Mar 17, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    duck rocks my world.

    also, preparing and saying “gastrique” makes me feel like a fancy-pants chef.

    that is all.

  • 12 Justin // Mar 18, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Well look at that! I’m just gonna pretend that I somehow influenced your making this dish through my duck breast inquiry-however untrue that may be-because it just does wonders for my self-worth. ok? Fantastic.

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