Here is your recipe for February. I am posting it a little early as it is a Valentine’s Dinner Recipe. This recipe for Duck Breast with Green Peppercorn Sauce is one of my favorites from our days in Paris during the 1980’s but it is timeless in its appeal. The recipe is also featured in my cookbook, Our Family Table: Recipes & Lessons from a Life Abroad (available on Amazon). It is easy to prepare and will impress your Valentine with the flashy flaming of the brandy!
You may have some difficulty finding duck breasts. Here in Asheville we have a wonderful butcher shop, The Chop Shop Butchery, which specializes in local and natural meats with a wide variety of choices and cuts. It’s the first place I go when I am looking to make a special dinner for James and myself at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. If you have trouble finding duck breast, you can make this using nice piece of beef fillet. (You will need to adjust the time in the oven up) Or you can buy a whole duck and practice your knife skills. (The legs and other parts of the duck can be used in another meal)
And one word of caution: Calvados is an apple brandy and it is EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE. You will be pouring the Calvados into a hot pan so please take it off the stove top and out from under any overhanging hood or lights. When you light it, stand well back. It is going to go WOOOSH! But the flame will die down immediately. If this step makes you nervous, you can skip the flame. After you add the brandy, let it simmer for two minutes to burn off the harsh alcoholic flavor. If you can’t find Calvados any brandy will work.
DUCK BREAST WITH GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE
2 boned duck breasts
1 tablespoon green peppercorns
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy), divided (see note above)
½ cup crème fraiche
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Remove the skin from the duck breast and cut into thin slices. Pierce the fat side with a fork a number times. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium high heat and sauté the duck skin until the fat is rendered and the skin has browned. Remove and reserve these duck cracklings.
Place the peppercorns in 2 tablespoons of the Calvados and reserve.
Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the duck fat from the skillet. (You may want to reserve the fat, it’s wonderful for sautéing potatoes). Return the pan to high heat. Salt and pepper the duck breasts, then sear them in the skillet for 2 to 3 minutes on a side. Pour the remaining ¼ cup Calvados over the duck breast and CAREFULLY light the brandy in the pan. ( If you have a low hood over your stove top you may want to move the pan away from the hood as the flames can leap quite high. ) Using a long-handled metal spoon, baste the breast with the flaming brandy until the alcohol has burned off and the flames die out.
Transfer the duck to a baking pan and roast for 10 minutes or until rare to medium rare.
Add the crème fraiche and the reserved peppercorn mixture to the reserved sauce in the skillet. Bring it to a boil, stirring up the brown bits off the bottom. Let it boil for a minute or two or until the sauce is thick. Taste the sauce and add salt if needed. If it is too thick, a splash of white wine will thin it for you.
Slice the duck breasts and serve over rice with the sauce. You can garnish it with the reserved cracklings or use them as topping on a green salad.
(For this dinner, I sauteed an apple in the duck fat and served it warm with the breast. A French Baguette was used to soak up the sauce. The salad pictured consisted of spring greens, thinly sliced red onion, dried cranberries, Brie cheese and the reserved duck cracklings simply dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.)