The luxury of a great Duck Breast in a dish that takes minutes to make.
There’s something about Duck that is both exotic and luxurious. I associate it with childhood visits to the great restaurants in Montreal, where I grew up. So when I saw this recipe that embraces the classic pairing of Duck and Orange flavors, I was intrigued. The recipe also includes that most Canadian of ingredients, Maple Syrup. I was hooked. The Maple Syrup adds a sweetness to the spice and citrus. It’s a beautiful presentation, dinner-party worthy. And then there’s a wonderful bonus: the Duck breasts release the perfect amount of duck-fat to produce perfect duck-fat potatoes.
Duck doesn’t have to break the bank…if you know where to shop.
I had been wanting to cook duck for ages. But each time I reached for it in the supermarket, I was completely put off by the price. Granted most of what was in stock had been confited and was table-ready. What I wanted was a good old Long Island duck breast, Long Island being famous for its duck So we went from the Supermarket to the Specialty Grocer next door, Citarella. And there Andrew uncovered exactly what we needed. Two sizeable duck breasts for under $12.00. As Macy’s used to say “It’s smart to be thrifty”, but it’s a good idea to shop around.
How did Long Island become so famous for its Ducks?
Long Island, NY proudly claims to raise the finest duck in the world. Or did. There is only one Duck Farm left: Crescent Duck Farm in the town of Aquebogue on the island’s East End. There used to be dozens. The duck farms dated from the 1870s. The Pekin duck arrived on US soil from China. There were all of four white ducks that were brought here for breeding purposes. 15 others died en route and 5 other survivors were promptly eaten. The first US duck farms were in Connecticut. Soon, duck farming made the leap across the Long Island Sound. A booming duck farm business was born. Duck was prized for how quickly they matured and how tender their flesh was. By the early 1900s, Long Island Peking duck became favored poultry among New York’s restaurant chefs. By the 1960s Long Island produced 7.5 million ducks a year.
Where did all the Duck Farms Go?
Unfortunately, duck farms do not make good neighbors. The waste run-off entered the water supply. The stench was particularly unpleasant. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation set stricter land-use regulations in the 1970s to protect the waterways. Hampton Real Estate prices soared. And the duck farms were doomed. They are commemorated by The Big Duck, a 20-foot-tall, reinforced-concrete duck complete with Model T Ford tail lights for eyes. It was constructed in 1931 by a duck farmer, Martin Maurer, as a retail space for his ducks and eggs. It is entered into the National Register of Historic Places and once even appeared on the cover of The New Yorker. Fortunately, for those of us who love Duck, the aforementioned Crescent Duck Farm still processes some 1 million ducks a year and has no plans to stop. By the way, they did a bang-up job protecting the waterways at their farm. Here’s today’s recipe, followed by some other ways to cook duck.
Maple Lacquered Duck Breasts with Duck-Fat Potatoes
To the classic pairing of Duck and Orange flavor, Maple Syrup, Thyme and Red pepper flakes are added in a dinner-party worthy dish with a bonus--Crispy crunchy Duck-Fat Potatoes.
- 2 duck breasts about 10 oz. each
- 1/4 cup grade B pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 2 pinches salt and pepper
- 3 large Yukon Gold Potatoes cut into 1/2 inch dice
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 375. Score the skin of your duck in a criss-cross pattern, about a half-inch apart, being careful not to cut through to the meat. Generously salt the duck all over.
- Step 2 Put the duck skin-side down into an unheated oven-safe skillet–cast iron if you have it. Turn the heat to medium. It is important not to get the heat too high because you want to brown and crisp the skin and render most of the fat without burning the skin or overcooking the meat.
- Step 3 Once you start to see some fat rendering, move them around a bit. Check periodically – the skin should be slowly turning deep golden brown.
- Step 4 As the fat renders remove some leaving about 1/8 – 1/4 inch of fat in the pan.
- Step 5 Put that extra rendered fat for potatoes into another skillet.
- Step 6 Add the potatoes and cook them until golden brown and crisp.
- Step 7 While the duck is browning mix together the syrup, zest, thyme, and red pepper. Once your skin is brown and crispy and glorious, flip the duck over and spoon the syrup glaze over.
- Step 8 Put it Into the 375-degree oven. After about 5 minutes, re-lacquer the duck with the now fatty sauce in the pan, then back into the oven for about 5 more minutes (depending on the size of your ducks). An internal temperature of 125-130 is medium-rare which is duck breast at its most delicious.
- Step 9 Make sure to rest the duck for at least 5 minutes, 10 is better, before slicing. Serve with the Duck-Fat Potatoes.