I have always felt intimidated by duck breasts – always overcooking, undercooking, burning, or otherwise just plain messing it all up. If you feel frustrated or worried that you'll mess up your nice duck dinner, my biggest words of advice to you are: TAKE. YOUR. TIME. Don't rush it. Render the fat slowly, adjusting the heat as necessary. Take the time to spoon out rendered fat and, most importantly, have a meat thermometer ready to go. As soon as your duck breasts hit 135ºF, take those bad boys out!
This might just be me, but I find it much easier to cook one duck breast at a time. This may not work if you're trying to do a romantic dinner for two, but if you're just practicing and you want to perfect your technique, I would cook one at a time.
Skill Level: Easy
Time to Make: 40 minutes
2 duck breasts
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch of Lacinato kale
2 small leeks, white and light green parts only
6 yukon gold potatoes
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
Garlic powder to taste
Hungarian paprika to taste
Prep Ingredients: Pat duck breasts dry and set aside. Rinse the kale and roughly chop the leaves. Thoroughly rinse the leeks and cut off any tough, dark green parts. Thinly slice the light green and white parts crosswise.
To prepare the duck breasts, first, score the skin in a cross hatch pattern. Using a very sharp knife, cut slices into the skin diagonally, about 1/2'' apart from each other. Be very, very careful to only cut through the skin without piercing the flesh. Turn the breast around and score the breast diagonally going the other direction to create the cross-hatch pattern. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside. Allow the duck breast to come to room temperature as you start the mashed potatoes.
Add the potatoes to a large pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil and cover and cook until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes.
As the potatoes boil, place the duck breasts skin-side down in a cold skillet. Turn the heat on to medium and cook for 10-15 minutes, adjusting the temperature as necessary and gently spooning out fat as it renders. (Note: I keep a heat-proof ramekin next to the skillet and add any rendered fat to that dish as I cook). The fat is rendered when the skin is very crispy and brown and no white is visible. Flip the duck breasts, and arrange the sliced leeks around the duck breast and cook until the internal temperature reaches 135ºF, approximately 5-7 minutes more. Remove only the duck from the pan and allow to rest, tented with foil. Leave 2 tablespoons of rendered duck fat in the pan.
Allow the leeks to continue cooking for an additional 5-7 minutes, or until very soft and tender. Add kale and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
While the leeks cook, drain the potatoes into a large bowl and add the cream, butter, salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Keep warm.
To serve: Divide mashed potatoes between plates and top with kale and leeks. Arrange the duck breast beside the potatoes and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt. Enjoy!
Designer and photographer living in NYC. I work as a design manager in ed tech and I make tasty recipes in my spare time!