Duck and cherries are a classic combination and we wanted to put our twist on this by using a port wine reduction with the cherries as a sauce. The combination of port with the cherries results in a beautiful sauce that perfectly complements the duck. This Pan Seared Duck with Cherry Port Sauce makes a beautiful dish that is easy to prepare!
Buying Duck Breasts
There are many different duck breeds and they vary in different parts of the world. Wild duck is a different story, so we will stick to farm-raised duck that can be bought online, in grocery stores, or from local farmers markets. This is not an exhaustive list, but some of the most common in the USA.
Main types of farm-raised duck widely available in the United States:
- Pekin (also called Long Island): The meat has a mild flavor, it is generally tender and adaptable to many cuisines.
- Muscovy: This duck usually provides larger breasts. The skin is thinner with more fat. The meat has a stronger flavor, is very rich and dark red. This variety is considered a duck-lovers breed, since the duck flavor is much more prominent.
- Moulard: This is a cross between Muscovy and Pekin and is the primary breed raised for foie gras in France. The breasts are called "magrets" and are dense, rich, plump, and have a strong flavor.
- D'Artagnan Rohan: This is a specific “brand” from D’Artagnan, so not technically a “breed.” It is a cross between Mallard and Pekin with smaller tender breasts and a mild flavor. Mallard ducks are a common duck all across the USA most often hunted wild (the males are the ones with green heads).
Generally, we prefer Rohan because of the mild flavor and tenderness. We used Rohan in this recipe, as well as most of our other duck recipes.
Cooking Duck Breasts
Cooking duck breasts should not be a daunting task at all, but there are a few tips and tricks for best results.
One thing to keep in mind is that duck is not treated as “poultry” when it comes to internal temperatures. It is closest to beef when it comes to temping a seared duck breast. However, duck breast is traditionally served medium or slightly below that. We like it on the low end of medium, so searing to 133-135°F will allow a few degrees of carryover that lands just under 140°F (our preference). But you can find what you most enjoy as far as duck temperature without being worried as with pork and chicken (and other poultry).
We prefer to use a nonstick skillet to pan sear the duck breasts, specifically our Calphalon Premier™ Hard-Anodized Cookware with new MineralShield™ nonstick technology. The super durable nonstick surface is perfect for this recipe and super easy to clean!
How to Get the Crispiest Skin?
It is also very important to render the fat out of the breast and to achieve a nice crispy, delicious skin. You do this by first scoring the skin with a knife in a cross-hatch pattern. Next you want to season your duck and place it on a rack in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Doing so will remove excess moisture allowing the skin to get crispier when it cooks.
When cooking the duck, it is best to place it skin side down in a cold pan then slowly cook it on medium-low for about 10 minutes. The time will depend on how hot your “medium-low” setting is, how thick the fat cap under the skin is, and how large your duck breast is. This will allow the fat under the skin to render and the skin to cook to a nice golden brown. The duck breast will only require about 2-3 minutes on the meat side at this point (internal temp approximately 135°F). We like to baste the duck with the rendered duck fat in the pan during the final 3 minutes of cooking to keep the meat nice and juicy and add some more amazing duck fat flavor to the breast. Don’t forget to save the rendered duck fat to make other tasty recipes (like Duck Fat potatoes).
Once cooked, allow the duck breast to rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
Port Cherry Sauce
This sauce is a great accompaniment to seared duck breast. Cherries and port, with a few small bits of help (like shallot, honey, and a little butter) is all you need for a perfect sauce. The flavor is semi-sweet and tangy, with just the right amount of tart balance that goes with the rich duck.
Looking for other sauces for duck? Check these out:
What to serve with Pan Seared Duck Breast?
Duck is very versatile when it comes to sides and garnishes. We love a nice potato puree and some crispy brussels sprout leaves, asparagus or charred broccolini, but the options are many and you can certainly do what you prefer without worry.
We hope that you enjoy this recipe for Pan Seared Duck with Cherry Port Sauce! If you give it a try and like it, leave us 5 stars and a comment below or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!
Looking for more recipes like this? Check these out:
- Pink Peppercorn Chicken with Golden Berry Tarragon Cream Sauce
- Blood Orange Shrimp and Creamy Cheese Grits
- Grapefruit Herb Chicken with Supreme Sauce
- Chicken Piccata with Caper Lemon Butter Sauce
Pan Seared Duck with Cherry Port Sauce
For the Duck
- 4 duck breasts (4-6 oz each)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium shallot – finely diced
- 1 cup tawny port
- 1 ½ cup pitted and halved cherries
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter – cold and cubed into 8 pieces
Prepare the Duck
- Score the fat side of the duck breast by cutting through the skin and most of the fat without cutting to the flesh. You can do this in a number of ways, but we prefer to score in a crosshatch about ¼” apart.
- Season with salt and pepper and let the duck rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and up to several hours. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before cooking.
- When ready to cook, place your duck fat-side down in a cold pan. Place the pan over medium heat and let the duck cook until the skin is crispy, and the fat has rendered. This should be about 10 minutes. Turn the duck breast over and cook for about 3 more minutes (internal temp should be around 135°F). Remove the duck to a cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting. The duck will be on the low side of medium after resting - around 140°F.
Prepare the Sauce
- In a saucepan or sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until it just starts to brown around the edges.
- Next, add the port, cherries, salt, and pepper and stir. Add the honey while stirring so it mixes in well with the liquid.
- Cook until the liquid has reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time until it is incorporated. Serve over the sliced duck.
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