This duck breast with blackberry sauce is incredibly quick and easy to prepare and makes for a delicious and elegant meal. It also pairs well with a broad range of sides.
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Duck is one of those things that I really enjoy, but don't cook nearly enough. And in fact, I imagine that is true for many people, either because you don't see it or because of fear. Just as with an expensive steak, it may feel a little intimidating to cook, But in fact, it really is much easier than you might think.
Alongside the seared duck, I've added a savory blackberry sauce which pairs absolutely perfectly. It's slightly rich, and the fruity flavor goes so well, too.
While this might all sound slightly fancy, this is in fact all pretty easy to make, and doesn't take all that long either. Make it as a fancy dinner, or just because, since you'll soon find it's one of those meals you could make and enjoy easily any night.
How to cook duck breast
Duck breast is easy and quick to cook. You don't need extra fat as the skin has plenty in there, and in terms of seasoning, just a little salt on either side is enough. Exactly how you cook it is a little up to you and what you have available - you can pan fry it, or start in the pan and finish in the oven, or else cook on the grill/under broiler.
Here I have described pan-seared though you can reduce the time you sear both sides and finish off in the oven if you prefer.
In all cases, you want to start by cooking the skin side then cook the flesh side, giving the skin side a bit longer. You finish by resting it for a few minutes as you would a steak to make sure as many of the juices are held inside before you slice it up.
If you start or cook completely in the pan, start with a cold pan. This may sound unusual, but this lets the skin warm up gradually so it releases fat and crisps, rather than tenses up and holds the fat in.
Savory blackberry sauce
The blackberry sauce is very easy to make, simply heating the blackberries with a couple other ingredients to reduce down a little, and it makes for a luscious accompaniment to the meat. I've added a little cloves as I think the warm spice is a great compliment to their flavor.
While I've served it worth the duck here, it would also go well with game like venison, chicken or even a steak.
I have made the sauce both with and without straining, and it's really up to you which you prefer. Plus, I think it depends on your blackberries as some have more seeds or firmer middles than others. Straining is, naturally, much smoother, but also takes a little longer. But you can also make it ahead of time, so really whatever you prefer.
What I would say is if you strain it, make sure you push through and then scrape as much of the solids from the strainer. They held to add a little thickness and body to the sauce.
Sides for this dish
You could pair a range of sides with this dish, but I'd suggest maybe something potato-based and a green vegetable or salad are best. Why not go for Dauphinoise potatoes or German potato pancakes, and maybe some French-style peas (as shown here), sautéed French green beans or roasted broccoli.
This pan seared duck breast with blackberry sauce is an easy dish to put together but the end result both looks and tastes great. The sauce has a lovely depth of flavor, a slightly spiced blend of sweet and savory, and goes really well with the duck. It's got that warmth which can be just the thing as the weather is getting that bit colder. Simply delicious.
Try these other meat and fruit combinations:
- Lamb tagine with apricots, chickpeas and squash
- Bobotie (South African curried meatloaf)
- Jaegerschnitzel - pork with mushroom sauce, with cranberry-raspberry sauce
- Plus get more main dishes in the archives.
Pan-seared duck breast with blackberry sauce
For blackberry sauce
- 1 cup blackberries 150g
- ½ cup chicken stock 120ml
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
For the duck
- 4 duck breasts or 3 if large, depending on size
- ½ teaspoon salt approx, to taste
For blackberry sauce
- For the sauce, place the blackberries, stock, vinegar, brandy, sugar and cloves in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for around 15-20 minutes, breaking up the blackberries, and reducing the liquid by around half.
- Optionally, press the sauce through a relatively fine strainer or mesh to hold back the seeds and other firmer solids. You can make the sauce a day or two ahead of time, chill it covered then re-heat as needed.
To cook the duck
- (You can cook the duck as the sauce cooks, then strain sauce as duck rests, or cook separately, and re-heat sauce, as you prefer.) Pat the duck breasts dry and lightly score the skin to break the skin but not cut through to the flesh below. Sprinkle both sides with a little salt.
- If cooking in a pan, place the duck breasts skin-side down in a cold pan and place over a medium-high heat. Let them cook for around 6-10 minutes until you can see the sides cooking and the skin has crisped up. Turn over and cook around another around 4 - 5 minutes, depending on thickness and how rare you want it. Generally, you want it to feel slightly soft and springy, but still giving a bit of resistance when you press in the middle.
- Once the duck has cooked, set it aside to rest - you can tent it with foil - for a few minutes before slicing and serving with the sauce poured over or on the side.
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This post was first published in September 2015 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and video as well as some additional content.