This week’s recipe is a family favourite in our house. I suppose it’s kind of an amalgamation of our favourite things; a simply pan-fried duck breast for Su, and the fondant potato for me. Why do I prefer the potato to the meat? Well try making these potatoes, and you’ll soon find out, they’re the best. But what do you add to the plate to lubricate your taste buds then? A port and blackberry sauce of course! Duck is famously good with fruity and robust flavours, so this combination is the perfect accompaniment. If you want to roast a whole duck, check out our recipe here.
You need to be careful when making pan-fried duck breast because although it’s very straightforward, you can easily screw it up, and it’s definitely not the cheapest meat out there. Duck is a very fatty animal, so to get juicy and tender meat at the end you need to render the fat out. This is done by starting the cooking process in a cold pan so that the fat begins to melt as the pan heats up. If you don’t take this approach, it can be very hard not to end up with a piece of meat topped with a tough and almost inedible fat cap.
So why are fondant potatoes just the best type of potato on the planet then? Because they’re slow cooked in butter, stock, herbs and garlic until perfectly tender and they’re not even that difficult. Also, they make a great starch option for dinner parties and the like, as they’re easily kept warm in the pan until you actually need them. Cooked in the butter and then some decent quality stock infuses the potatoes with flavour throughout, making them irresistible.
When looking for the ideal sauce for my pan-fried duck breast, I knew it had to be decadent, while still holding a decent amount of freshness from fruit. The obvious choice of orange has never sat with me that well, and although nice enough isn’t my thing. Personally, I’m all about the berries, and the idea of adding a quite absurd amount of port into the mix? Count me in. The addition of the hefty quantity of port means that this sauce is not cheap to make, but it has a robust flavour, and you’re not going to be drowning your meat and potatoes in it like if it was gravy. So what I do is splash out and make a load, and then freeze the rest for next time it takes my fancy. You won’t regret it.
In addition to the above, I always include some extra veggies onto the plate with my pan-fried duck breast. Anything green and fresh goes well, but asparagus is my preferred go-to, blanched until almost ready and then tossed in the duck juices from the pan with a little lemon and black pepper. Whatever you go for, keep them fresh and simple.
Notes on Cooking
For the duck breast make sure that you season the skin immediately before placing down in the pan. Make sure the pan is cold, and turn on. I find that the lowest setting on my largest stove top burner is the perfect heat for it to slowly come up to temperature. Move the breast around the pan to ensure even cooking, and keep an eye on the colour of the skin, you want it to reach perfect golden-brown after about 10 minutes.
A decadent but remarkable simple plate of food that will impress anyone. Succulent duck, rich and buttery potatoes with a fruity port and blackberry sauce.
- 350 mL port
- 200 g blackberries fresh or frozen
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 star anise
- 400 mL chicken stock
- 2 tsp corn flour
- 50 g unsalted butter
- 4 medium-sized potatoes (100 g each)
- 100 g unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 500 mL chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 tsp salt uniodized
- 1 tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 2 duck breasts (200 g each)
- 2 tsp salt uniodized
Put the port into a saucepan over a medium heat and reduce by half.
Add the blackberries, sugar, vinegar, star anise and stock. Reduce again, this time by two thirds.
When reduced, remove the sauce from the heat and strain. Return the sauce to a clean pan.
Bring to a simmer and add the corn flour mixture, stirring well to combine. Allow to simmer for a few minutes until thickened.
Season with salt to taste.
Add the butter just before serving.
Peel and cut the potatoes to create a flat hockey-puck type shape. Try and waste as little as possible.
Melt the butter in the oil in a saucepan with a lid over a medium heat before adding the potatoes. Fry for around 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Carefully add the stock until it reaches about ⅔ up the side of the potatoes, followed by the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Season with the salt and pepper.
Cover the potatoes and simmer for around 20 minutes, or until a sharp knife can pierce the centre of a potato with no resistance. Be careful not to break them!
Remove from the heat and keep warm until serving.
Score the skin of the duck breasts with a sharp knife, trying not to cut down into the meat.
Season with salt and lay skin-side down into a cold frying pan.
Turn on the heat low, and allow the meat to come up to temperature with the pan. Fry for around 10 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden.
Turn the breasts over and sear on the remaining sides for a few minutes. The meat is done when it is still slightly springy to the touch.
Remove from the pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.