This might be my favorite recipe for wild duck breast because the flavors on this plate are so well rounded and full of variety, from the sweet and tart pomegranate sauce to the cayenne dusted acorn squash. It’s a Mediterranean influenced dish that’s finished with crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkle of mint, both have cooling properties that pull everything together.
I’ve made the pomegranate sauce a few different ways. After experimenting, I found that clarified butter worked better than regular. Clarified butter is just butter that has had the milk solids removed leaving the pure fat behind but still keeping that delicious flavor. I prefer to use clarified because it has a higher smoking point which is necessary when searing the duck and also because it helps thicken the sauce as it cools resulting in a nice, silky consistency. If you don’t have clarified you can sear the duck in oil and finish the sauce with a pat of butter. Finally, I used a splash of port tawny in the sauce but you can certainly use a ruby, just know that the result may be a little sweeter than my version.
One last thing note about waterfowl: Not all ducks come home from a hunt in great condition so when you do get one, especially a nice mallard or pintail, be sure to make the most of it by plucking the breast and leaving the skin and fat intact. I can assure you that your tastebuds will thank you for the extra work.
Time to make
4 + duck breasts (depending on size/type of duck used), plucked with skin on
1 C. pomegranate juice
2 T. honey
2 T. clarified butter
1 shallot, sliced
1/4 C. port
1/2 C. chicken stock
2 acorn squashes
salt & pepper
oil for cooking acorn squash
crumbled goat cheese
fresh chopped mint
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut open the squash by slicing lengthwise through the body until you can pull it apart with your hands. Don’t try to cut through the stem. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and then slice the squash crosswise into 1″ thick rings.
- Lay the wedges across a sheet pan and drizzle with oil to coat. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and optional dust of cayenne pepper both sides. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, flip, and roast for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until tender and starting to char.
Duck & Pomegranate Sauce:
- Prep the duck by patting very dry with paper towels. If you left the skin in tact, score through the fat by making crosshatch marks across skin using a sharp knife, do not pierce through the meat. Let the meat sit at room temperature until ready to cook.
- Start making the sauce by reducing the pomegranate juice. Bring the juice and honey to a soft boil in a small sauce pot, let it reduce for 10-15 minutes or until you reach half the amount you started with, or about half a cup. This step can be made in advance.
- Bring a large saute pan to a medium-high heat. Add 1 T. of clarified butter and let it sizzle, turning the pan to coat. Once hot, add each breast, skin down. Use a spatula to press it down so it gets full contact on the pan. After about 2 minutes, or once brown, flip each breast. Continue to cook for an additional 2-4 minutes, depending on how large your duck is, your looking for an internal temperature of 135. Transfer meat to a cutting board to rest.
- In the same pan, add another tablespoon of clarified butter. Add the shallots and saute until soft. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the port, scraping up any bits at the bottom. Add the stock and the pomegranate reduction. Keep the heat high and let it gently boil to reduce in half again for about 5 minutes or longer to reach the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Slice and serve the duck with acorn squash and a spoonful of pomegranate sauce. Garnish with crumbled goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, and fresh chopped mint.