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Ever since having duck with a cherry sauce for my birthday at Marquee Grill, I’ve wanted to cook it at home. I figured our anniversary was the perfect excuse! I loved the idea of a slightly sweet sauce with the duck, so I looked for one that used fig jam. I didn’t really find one, so I adapted a recipe from Martha Stewart that used fresh figs. I know from watching Top Chef that crispy duck skin is a must, so I took extra care to follow the directions to render the fat properly. I started the duck and the sauce at the same time. I boiled and simmered the sauce several times because I wanted it to thicken properly, and luckily it was the perfect consistency and sweetness but the time I sliced the duck. The directions below reflect my changes. Medium rare is 130-135, so I removed when the breasts were about 128 and 133. Perfect!

DUCK

  1. Two 12-ounce Moulard duck breasts with skin (I used duck breasts from Central Market that were about 7 oz each)
  2. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  3. Zest of a small lemon
  4. Juice of 1 lemon
  5. 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
  6. 1/2 large shallot, thinly sliced
  7. 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish, drained
  8. 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  9. Salt and pepper, lots!

FIG SAUCE

  1. 1 tbsp butter
  2. 1/2 large shallot, thinly sliced
  3. 1 clove garlic, minced
  4. 1 tbsp minced thyme leaves
  5. 2 tbsp brandy/cognac
  6. 3 tbsp fig jam
  7. 1 cup chicken stock
  8. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. PREPARE THE DUCK: With a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern. In a large, shallow dish, combine the olive oil with the lemon peel, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, shallot, horseradish and garlic. Add the duck breasts and turn to coat. Let the duck stand at room temperature for 2 hours, turning a few times.
  2. MAKE THE FIG SAUCE: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the thyme and stir to toast. Add the cognac and let the alcohol cook out, about 2 minutes. Stir in the fig jam and chicken stock. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Cover (I didn’t) and simmer over moderately low heat until the figs are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the figs from the stock, chop them coarsely and return them to the saucepan.
  3. Scrape the marinade from the duck breasts and season them all over with salt and pepper. Put the duck breasts in a large cast-iron skillet, skin side down, and cook them over moderately low heat until most of the fat has been rendered, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to moderate and cook the duck breasts until the skin is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. Turn the duck breasts and cook them until they are medium-rare, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the duck breasts to a carving board, skin side up, and let them rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Slice the duck breasts crosswise and transfer to plates. Spoon the fig sauce over the sliced duck breasts and serve.
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