blackberry sauced duck

Duck is probably one of the most common meats that I have eaten very little of in my lifetime.  Actually, until very recently in adulthood, I could only really remember one meal where I had eaten duck, at a Chinese restaurant when I was fairly young.  I remember it being fatty and savory and, to use a word that has been much overused in the culinary world as of late, unctuous.  For a long time, I regarded duck as a primarily Asian ingredient, out of the reach of ordinary American home chefs, since I never saw duck in supermarkets.

Seemingly out of nowhere, duck fat has somewhat become the fat du jour, alongside bacon in its ubiquitous revival.  I found it particularly interesting because in 1975, Julia Child wrote that “duck fat is not considered culinarily desirable.”  Having had duck fat fries, I would have agreed that it didn’t add any particularly special quality to the already notoriously delicious fried potato.  Still, I consider frying dinner’s potatoes in tonight’s rendered duck fat unwasteful, and indeed I found that the potatoes had taken on some transcendental quality that I could not quite identify.  I wouldn’t say that I would go out of my way to use duck fat if I didn’t enjoy duck, but I definitely wouldn’t throw away the more than half-cup of duck fat I rendered off two breasts either.

As for the sauce, in a stroke of impulse, I slaved for hours over a hot stove making it.  In other words, I opened a jar of jam and microwaved it for 15 seconds to melt it somewhat.  Yes, it was that easy, and it doesn’t have to be blackberry.  We have many jams in the fridge and I also considered lingonberry, marmalade, and apricot – cherry and raspberry might also be good choices.  Or, I dunno, salted caramel sauce?

blackberry sauced duck (2-4 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 duck breasts
  • 1/4 c. blackberry jam
  • 1-2 russet potatoes

Directions:

  1. Score the fat on the duck breasts in a cross-hatch pattern.  Sprinkle generously with salt on both sides.  Place fat-side down in a cold pan, and turn the heat up to medium-low.  The fat will render out over about 15 minutes or so, and in my case, the fat came about halfway up the duck breasts.
  2. When the skin is brown and crispy, flip the breasts and let them cook another few minutes.  This particular poultry you can eat all the way up to rare, I understand, and for me (my breasts were butterflied) it took only about 3-5 minutes to get to well-done.  So, a thermometer might be your best friend if you’re looking for a specific degree of doneness.
  3. Remove the breasts and set aside.  Pour out all but 2 tbsp. of duck fat.  Dice the potatoes in 1/2″ cubes and add to the skillet with a pinch of salt.  Cook about 20 minutes, or until cooked through.  If you find that your potatoes are sticking too much, and you don’t mind sacrificing the super-crispy skin, you can add a few tablespoons of water to the pan once or twice to allow steam to help the cooking process.
  4. Place jam in a small ramekin and microwave until melted.  Slice duck breasts and pour sauce over.  Serve with potatoes.
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