Peppery Duck Breast

This is an easy riff on steak au poivre, made not with beef but with a large, meaty Muscovy duck breast rubbed with a healthy amount of crushed black peppercorns and garlic. The duck is given a beautiful crisp skin in a cast-iron pan and cooked to a rosy medium-rare.

Parsley can stand up to an assertive, garlicky dressing; indeed, garlic and parsley play very well together. Think of this salad more as a garnish than a bowlful, as a zippy topping for all kinds of things, from asparagus spears to sliced tomatoes to paper-thin salami. And it’s divine, too, showered over a rosy duck breast or a grilled rib eye steak, sliced tagliata-style. Sliced and topped with a simple parsley salad, this duck makes a generous main course for two.–David Tanis

LC Groovy Gremolata Note

The lovely little parsley situation in this recipe casually stretches the definition of gremolata from the classic garnish of minced parsley, lemon zest, and garlic to a stately little salad of whole parsley leaves and a lemon vinaigrette with the edge of garlic. The minced rendition is traditionally sprinkled atop osso buco (braised veal shanks) as a means to effectively slash the dish’s richness from ridiculously indulgent to really quite tolerable—and quite enjoyable—levels. It’s a trick that also works well with similarly rich dishes such as duck, amply marbled steak, fish panfried in butter, and the like. This salad does exactly the same. Groovy. Although moms, you may want to make certain it’s on the side and not touching the duck breast. Every kid we know loves duck breast, though parsley not so much.

Peppery Duck Breast Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 40 M
  • Serves 2 to 4


  • For the duck
  • 1 (about 1 pound) Muscovy duck breast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely crushed peppercorns
  • For the parsley salad
  • 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)


  • Make the duck
  • 1. Using a sharp knife, remove the tenderloin from the underside of the duck breast and reserve for another use. Trim any ragged bits or gristle from the underside of the duck, and then turn the breast over and trim any excess fat from the edges. Pat the duck completely dry with paper towels.
  • 2. Place the duck, skin side up, on a cutting board. Score the skin with the tip of the knife by making shallow diagonal cuts, 1/2 inch apart, in one direction and then repeating in the other direction, creating a diamond pattern. Season both sides of the duck (that is, the skin side and the meat side) with the salt, then massage with the garlic paste (again on both sides), and then press the crushed peppercorns evenly onto the surface (again on both sides). Put the duck on a platter and set aside for at least 1 hour at room temperature. (You can instead cover and refrigerate the duck overnight; bring to room temperature before cooking.)
  • 3. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully add the duck breast, skin side down, and let it sizzle for several minutes. Using tongs, check to see that the skin is not browning too quickly and that the garlic is not burning, and if necessary, reduce the heat. Be careful; the duck breast will render a fair amount of hot fat. Cook until the duck skin is golden and crisp, 6 or 7 minutes. Turn the duck breast over and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer the duck to a carving board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Reserve the rendered duck fat in the skillet, allowing it to cool to room temperature and then straining it into a jar and refrigerating it for future use.
  • Make the parsley salad
  • 4. Pick the parsley leaves from the stems—you want about 2 loosely packed cups. Wash and gently dry with a clean towel.
  • 5. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, garlic, and oil.
  • 6. At the very last moment before dinner, turn the parsley leaves into a serving dish, add a sprinkle of salt, and then gently toss with the dressing to coat lightly. Serve in a fluffy pile and garnish with shavings of Parmigiano, if desired.
  • Serve the peppery duck breast
  • 7. Cut the duck at an angle into 1/4-inch-thick slices and arrange on a platter. If desired, top the duck with a fluffy pile of parsley salad. Serve immediately.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these: