It’s Monsieur’s favourite, duck breast, and although I am sure of his infinite love and affection for me I secretly suspect him of being perfectly capable of choosing a perfectly cooked duck breast over my precious company.
Magret de canard, such a French classic, and thus a regular on my table whenever we have something nice worth celebrating. Small successes, snug anniversaries or a change of the seasons.
The fields harvested and so the grapes, golden yellow and burgundy patches colouring the vast forests, I chose a seasonal arrangement for cooking the duck breast. Vine leaves and juicy red grapes, runner beans from my garden and potatoes baked crispy in the oven. The occasion: greeting autumn. It is this life out here, where a change in the weather is so deeply felt, that you can’t help but be conscious of nature. And especially in these unsettling times, a world drawn into a torrent of fear and misgivings, it is the constancy of rituals, small feasts, small celebrations I believe that root us to the ground, the soil that we thrive on, this our earth. And remember, this our earth, the world, it is a globe, and no one can possibly upturn that.
Now then, this is how to cook a duck breast:
What you’ll need:
- One nice, fresh and sustainably farmed duck breast
- Pink peppercorns, grinded
- Half a decilitre of white vinegar
- A large spoonful of sugar
- One clove of garlic, halved
- Grapevine leaves
- A branch of grapes
- Good potatoes
- Fresh butter
- Runner beans
How to cook it:
Start on the potatoes by peeling and halving them. Cut into fine slices but don’t cut fully through, so that the halves stay put. Lay out on a well greased baking tray and add a bit of butter on top. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 40min at 180°C (no fan on).
In a small pan, gently caramelise the sugar and deglaze with the vinegar. Let sit in a warm spot until the caramel fully dissolves.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Take an ovenproof dish and rub the inside with the garlic. Lay out with the wine leaves and cover with grapes. Toast for a couple of minutes in the oven.
Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C, no fan.
Remove the blue skin on the fleshy side of the duck breast with a sharp knife. This will prevent it from getting chewy. In a second step, cut a diamond pattern into the greasy skin, however be careful not to cut into the meat.
In a medium sized pan, cover the runner beans in water and bring to boil. Immediately reduce temperature and let simmer for 10min. Drain but leave a little water in, add a nut of butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Let sit in a warm spot.
Transfer the duck breast to a cast iron pan, skin down, and brown at low temperature for 6-8 minutes. Occasionally, sprinkle it with the fat that melts during cooking. For the last two minutes, increase temperature to maximum and caramelise both sides for 30 seconds to a minute each. Transfer to the ovenproof form, skin up, and add the grease, as well as the caramel by pouring both over the duck breast. Season with sea salt and pink pepper and cook in the oven for another 4-6 minutes. Overall preparation time for the magret de canard varies thus from 11 to 16 minutes in total, depending on whether you prefer it rosé or well done.
When cooked, cover the dish with tinfoil and let sit in a warm spot while you start arranging the plates. Cut the duck breast into thin slices and serve with some potatoes, runner beans and baked grapes. Sprinkle with the juice that’s left in the ovenproof form.
How to eat it:
With reverence, of course, because this dish is a model of refinement. Otherwise with a nice glass of burgundy (we love volnay to go along) and a slice of fresh bread to finish off the sauce.