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Seared Duck Breast

Two seared duck breasts, one sliced, the other whole on a wood cutting board
Seared duck breast that's restaurant-worthy after being rubbed with a garlic and peppercorn paste and cooked to perfection is a simple yet sophisticated dinner for any occasion.
David Tanis

Prep 30 mins
Cook 1 hr 10 mins
Total 1 hr 40 mins
2 to 4 servings
159 kcal


For the duck

  • 1 1 lb 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 leaves
  • 2 teaspoons fresh 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

  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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

  • Pick the parsley leaves from the stems—you want about 2 loosely packed cups. Wash and gently dry with a clean towel.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, garlic, and oil.
  • 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

  • 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.