Wild Duck Breasts with Pomegranate and Red
(with Braised Cabbage and Caramelized Apples)
One Saturday in late October, we were fortunate to have received a whole fresh wild
duck from my cooking friend Marc Vogel. We felt obligated to come up with a Sunday Supper
recipe that would do justice to the duck and one that Marc would approve of. But in the
relaxed Sunday Supper spirit, we started thinking about what we could do with the duck on
Sunday evening at about 6 o'clock.
In the refrigerator from Saturday's shopping, we found pomegranates, cabbage and
apples. Within an hour, we transformed the cabbage and apples into a succulent and sweet
backdrop for grilled duck breasts which we accented with a tangy pomegranate-currant
sauce. Many thanks to our friend Marc for giving us an duck-y inspiration!
This is a very easy recipe. Start preparations with the cabbage and then prepare all
the other ingredients while the cabbage is cooking. You could use the same cabbage and
apple recipe as a base for roasted chicken breasts if wild duck
breasts aren't available.
- While the cabbage is cooking, peel and cut 2 medium-sized apples
into ¼" slices.
- Melt 2 TBS butter in a cast iron skillet, then add 2-3 TBS sugar. When the sugar has
melted, add the apple slices, flat side down. Turn as necessary to cook the slices so that
each side develops a caramel color. This should take about 20 minutes.
Sauce for Duck Breasts:
- While the cabbage and apples are cooking, cut 4 fresh pomegranates
into quarters. Squeeze each quarter over a bowl to extract the juice from the seeds. Don't
crush the seeds which will impart a bitter flavor to the juice. Squeeze only hard enough
to extract the juice. (You can also put the seeds through a centrifuge-type juicer. But
don't use a Mouli grater which will crush the seeds.)
- You should have about 1 cup of fresh juice that you reduce over a medium flame to about
- After the juice is reduced, add about 1/3 cup red currant jelly and 3 TBS sugar.
Continue to cook until the sauce becomes syrupy. Up to this point, it should take about 15
- 20 minutes.
- Just before serving, reheat and add 2 TBS fruit or red wine vinegar.
Don't add salt and pepper. The sauce should simply be tart and tangy.
- Remove the duck breasts from the duck body with a boning knife. Reserve the skin and
bones to use later for a stock.
- When all of the other ingredients are ready, sear the duck breasts in butter in a cast
iron skillet for 2 minutes on each side, turning twice. Then let them sit in the hot pan
off heat for about 10 minutes to continue cooking and to let the juices retract. The meat
should be quite pink.
- Cut each breast into thin slices, while preserving the breast shape.
- Spread a layer of cooked cabbage in a warm individual-serving sized bouillabaisse bowl.
- Place the sliced duck breast (intact) on top of the cabbage and drizzle it with a few
TBS of pomegranate-currant sauce.
- Nestle the caramelized apple slices around the duck.
- Duck: Wild duck breasts have a dark color and deep
flavor so they can stand up to the tangy pomegranate-currant sauce. If you're using
roasted chicken breasts instead of wild duck, you may want to tone down the sauce by using
less pomegranate juice and making up the volume with chicken stock.
- Chicken fat: When making chicken stock, I let
the stock sit in the refrigerator for one day to let the fat come to the surface and
congeal. Then it's easy to skim it off. I freeze the fat in 2-3 TBS sizes and use it to
add succulence to bland vegetables such as cabbage.
- Apples: We used Fuji apples because we had those
on hand. Any apples that remain firm during cooking would be fine. The apples add a sweet
foil to the tangy duck and succulent cabbage. Don't omit them from this dish.
- Pomegranates: When pomegranates are in
season, I buy enough to make about 20 cups of juice which I then reduce to about 5-6 cups
and freeze in small quantities. The tangy taste of the pomegranate comes through much
better if you reduce it to a ratio of at least 3:1. In that concentrated form, it's much
easier to store in the freezer and you can use small quantities in all kinds of sauces and
marinades. Using the concentrated juice, we also make a pomegranate jelly that livens up
even the grayest winter morning breakfast!
- Vinegar: Adding vinegar to sauces is a cook's
trick that helps to brighten up the sauce. You can use the same technique in almost any
sauce that uses chicken or veal stock as a base.