Magret de Canard au miel awka honey duck to friends, is a specialty from the south west region of France. Often times served with pommes de terre salardaises, which are potatoes cooked in rendered duck fat and garlic, topped with fresh parsley. Its very easy to make, yet a sure bang for the buck on your delicate palate.
I like to give an Eurasian twist to the honey sauce using Vietnamese 4 spices : star anise, cloves, pepper and cinnamon. As well as adding some hotness to the potatoes using piment d’espelette.
Getting that crispy duck skin without burning it nor smoking up the kitchen is the key. If done right it all becomes very easy and perhaps the reason why you can find this on the menu in pretty much any restaurant in France.
Add a side of charred baby bok choy
It is usually served with a salad, or with caramelized roasted fruits like apples or figs.
But adding a side of charred baby bok choy turns this in fusion inspired, nice balanced meal.
What you need for 2 people
+ 1 lbs medium potatoes with a firm flesh
+ 3 to 4 Garlic cloves, minced
+ 1 Parsley bunch sniped
+ 4 tbsp rendered duck fat
+ 2 Duck Breasts (1 per person)
+ 4 tbsp Acacia honey
+ 1 shot of cognac (Wine or vinegar can be substitute)
+ 2 Star Anise, 1 Cinnamon stick, 1 clove
+ 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
+ 1 tsp black, pink or green peppercorn
+ Salt and Pepper, Piment d’espelette
Wash the potatoes and peel them using a Y-peeler.
Wash the parsley and drain well.
Pat the duck dry all over with a paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible.
Cut the potatoes in cubes like i did here or, as traditionally prepared, slice them up to 1/8″ thickness. Not too thin or they will burn, not too thick. The idea is to be crispy on the outside, but soft inside. You don’t want to make chips, nor make them too mushy.
Snip the bunch of parsley.
Squash the garlic cloves with a large knife to remove the skin and inside germ, then mince it.
Score the duck skin diagonally every 1/2″.
Cooking the potatoes…
In a heavy bottom pan or skillet, heat up half of the rendered duck fat sprinkled with piment d’espelette until very hot.
On high heat, add the potatoes and stir them constantly so they become evenly coated with the duck fat. Generously salt and pepper the potatoes.
Add the other half of the duck fat to the skillet, lower the heat to medium-low and cook covered for 30 min, stirring the potatoes every 10 min or so.
10 min before the end, add the garlic to the bottom of the pan so it can crisp a bit then stir.
When the potatoes are cooked, add the parsley and stir. Remove from heat.
Once the potatoes have cooked for about 10 minutes, start searing the duck.
I’ll say it again here, the key trick to searing duck breast is to add the duck to a cold pan, rather than once it has heated up, and cooking it over medium heat without moving rather than on high heat.
Cooking the duck…
So place your duck breast skin side down into a cold heavy bottom pan then turn the heat on to medium. Let it be, without moving for 10 to 15 min until the skin is golden brown.
If it rendered fat starts to smoke and the skin is already golden sooner than turn it over. If in a situation where its not close to cooked but very smokey, then you may want to remove the duck, pour out the oil from the pan, and place back on the stove. That shoudn’t happen though with this cooking method.
Flip the duck and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Once it has reached desired temperature, remove from the pan and let it sit on a wooden board for 5 minutes in order to render all the blood out.
Making the Sauce…
Deglaze the pan with the shot of cognac, scrapping off the pan. Add the 4 spices (star anise, cinnamon stick, clove and peppercorns) then the honey. Sprinkle with the ground nutmeg and stir well.
Let it simmer on low heat until it has reduced a bit to a sauce like texture. Add ground pepper and salt to taste if needed.
By then the potatoes should have finished cooking and you already stirred in the parsley.
Slice the duck along the scores (or serve it uncut) and arrange on a plate with the pommes de terre salardaises.
Coat the duck with a couple spoons of the spicy honey sauce. Serve with some good baguette bread to dip in the sauce and wipe that plate squeaky clean when you’re done.