Honeyed, pan-seared duck breast with redcurrant sauce is a mouthwatering main course. Duck is a welcome alternative to chicken or turkey. The meat is a little darker than the later and has a richer flavour. The meat pairs really well with fruits and since the redcurrant bushes in my garden are bursting with strings of shiny berries, I decided it was time for a team up. The redcurrant sauce tastes sweet and a little tart. The sauce is similar to Cumberland sauce, which is the perfect replacement when redcurrants are out of season but cooked with fresh berries instead of jelly. I added lots of fresh thyme and cognac to give the sauce a deep and warm flavour. If you prefer a fruitier version, simply replace the cognac with the same amount of orange juice. This is a nice dish to serve at a fancy dinner party or holiday feast and doesn’t take much time to prepare. Happy cooking!
Put the redcurrants in a large colander and rinse them under running cold water in the sink. To pick the redcurrants quickly, hold a stalk over a bowl and a run the string down between the tines of a fork, so the berries pop off and fall into the bowl.
- 4 duck breasts (approx. 150 g / 5 oz each)
- 4 small white onions, peeled and chopped
- 300 g (1 2/3 cups) redcurrants, plus some extra for decorating
- 3 twigs fresh thyme, leaves picked from the stems
- 4 tbsp cooking oil (e.g. canola oil)
- 8 tsp clear honey
- 30 ml (1/8 cup) cognac (If preferred use orange juice instead.)
- 240 ml (1 cup) water
- black pepper, ground
- 2 tsp caster (granulated) sugar
1) Prep the duck breasts
Wash the duck breasts under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Using a sharp kitchen knife, score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern, going almost down to the meat. This helps to render the fat when searing.
2) Sear the duck breast
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottom skillet. Add the duck breasts skin-side down first and sear on both sides for 4 minutes on high heat. Preheat the oven to 100°C (225°F / gas mark 1/4) and then turn off but leave the oven door closed. Reduce the heat to medium and fry the duck breasts on each side for another three minutes. Brush the breasts with 4 tsp honey and continue to fry for 5 more minutes until the skin looks crisp and dark golden. Remove from the skillet to a heatproof dish and cover with foil. Put in the preheated oven to keep warm.
3) Cook the redcurrant sauce
Pour off half of the duck fat from the skillet and discard or save for another dish. Put the onions into the remaining fat and roast on medium-high heat until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Deglaze with cognac or orange juice and water. Add the redcurrants, remaining honey, thyme leaves, salt and black pepper. Cook for 15 minutes on medium-high heat until the berries break down, and the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the redcurrant sauce from the heat. Push the berries through a fine mesh sieve to remove the solids and puree. If you want to sweeten the sauce, stir in 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar. Keep warm.
4) Serve the pan seared duck breast
Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper and cut into slices. Fan on a plate and spoon the redcurrant sauce across the duck. Garnish with fresh berries and small sprigs of thyme. Serve hot with pasta, risotto or greens.
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