Friday, November 4, 2011

Lavender Honey & Orange Glazed Duck Breasts

At present, my intrepid sous chef is only concerned about one kind of duck challenge:  the Oregon Ducks’ upcoming showdown with the Stanford Cardinal.   No, he is not an Oregon Duck by education or geography.  In fact, since childhood he has been a USC Trojan fan (and later a USC law school graduate).  But he loves the Ducks’ style of play:  fast, fast and faster. 
I am not a football fan, but I am a fan of great recipes that can be prepared quickly during the halftime of some important college or professional football game. This week’s French Friday’s with Dorie challenge of 20-minute Glazed Duck Breasts fits the bill (pun intended).  During football and Holiday seasons I’m looking for quick and easy meals and rapidly tire of home delivery and drive through.  So the thought of making such a cosmopolitan dish as duck breasts was very appealing.

There are lots of waterfowl in the Palm Springs area owing to the proliferation of water features on the over 100 golf courses and the quintessential backyard pool to cool oneself during the long and arduous summers.  But what is flying, quacking and generally messing sea and land locally is not necessarily found in our markets.  I had once seen duck breasts at Bristol Farms in Rancho Mirage and so there the quest for the Holy Duck Grail began and ended.  Of course, there were no duck breasts available at that time, but the fowlmonger did have a nice 5-pound duck that we could have.  A look of consternation passed between me and my sous chef that was noticed by the fowlmonger.  After some pleading, he graciously butchered the beast into two de-boned filets, two legs and some other parts that were best left with him.  Had we tried this at home, Dorie’s 20-minute recipe would have likely included an unproductive hour of preparation and the risk of losing one or more digits. 

As an aside, Dorie’s recipe did not specify whether the duck breast should be boneless and whether or not fresh was preferred over frozen.  For ease of preparation and speed, I assume boneless is the correct choice, and I always prefer fresh to frozen, except for my margaritas and daiquiris. 

My first duck - The veggies were roasted in duck fat and unbelievably good!
Duck is something I often order at swank restaurants.  However, my only previous foray into cooking duck at home was in September when I could not resist a whole duck from the Bristol Farms in South Pasadena.   I went for inspiration and instruction to my ”cooking bible,” Joel Robuchon’s The Complete Robuchon.  This book has no photos, but provides very detailed instruction on how to cook, and for that reason alone I can commend this book for your cooking library.  The roasted duck was delicious and pretty simple to prepare. 

Scored Duck Breasts - Chef & Sous Chef tied in final score!

My two small, but expensive, duck breasts at the ready, I scanned Dorie’s recipe and was so shocked at its simplicity I had to read it again.  Indeed it was simple, except for one thing.  I had never “scored” a duck breast and did not know how to do it.  The entreaty to my sous chef was met with sarcastic comments about “the Ducks’ score at will” and “I should stick to my own species.”  When he had calmed, he demonstrated the technique on one breast and I did the other.  A good, sharp knife is essential for this task and be sure not to cut into the meat in the process.

After a good scoring, the duck breasts were ready to sizzle in my Dutch Oven.  Dorie mentioned that using a Dutch Ovens helped contain the splattering duck fat.  This was an excellent tip that saved my stovetop from looking like a grease bomb had exploded!  It’s amazing how much fat can come from two duck breasts.  For those without a Dutch Oven or equivalent, a splatter screen is a good alternative.

At the beginning

Flipped for the last 3 minutes in Dutch Oven

Duck Breasts after a 5 minute rest
Over medium-high heat, I cooked the duck breasts for 8 minutes on one side and then flipped them over and cooked for another 3 minutes.  No butter or oil was needed for the duck breasts render enough fat.  When done, I took the duck breasts from the Dutch Oven, loosely wrapped them in tinfoil and let them rest in a pre-heated oven for 5 minutes at 250 degrees.  The resting period gives you time to prepare your accompaniments.

Fresh local oranges, juicy and sweet!
 After the duck breasts had rested in the oven, it was time to apply glaze all over and return them to the Dutch Oven to warm each side for 30 seconds at low heat.  The recipe calls for a glaze consisting of honey, balsamic vinegar and lime juice, simple ingredients that are normally at home.  Turns out I had everything but plain honey, so I had to improvise.  At hand was a lavender infused honey I use in making a cocktail I adore, the San Permis, created and served at Sapphire Restaurant in Laguna Beach.  The San Permis is the perfect brunch substitute for a Mimosa and is made with lavender infused honey, cava (Spanish Sparkling), and Cointreau (orange liqueur).  The drink’s combination of honey and orange liqueur inspired me to substitute orange juice for the lime juice.  The combination of the lavender honey, balsamic vinegar and orange juice is a winner.  It makes a great glaze:  fruity, sweet and fragrant and matches well with the duck breasts slightly robust flavor.  Magnifique! 
Lavender Infused Honey
We earlier had a sumptuous lunch and neither of us wanted a meal with all the trimmings.  So I sliced the duck breasts, added them to an arugula salad and drizzled on some of the sweet smelling glaze elixir that I had fortuitously saved.  The result was spectacular.  An entrée salad made in 20 minutes that was as good tasting as it looked.  The duck breasts were crispy on the outside and moist and pink on the inside.  A perfect complement to the spicy arugula that glistened with a captivating sheen from the glaze. 
Glazing the duck breast
Our duck breast ended up becoming an entrée salad – completely accidental, but a great happenstance that will be made again.  No more mundane chicken salads.  Moist, rich tasting duck breasts that can be made in 20 minutes are a miracle dish for the chef held hostage by football most evenings. 
Magnifique!  Dinner in 20!

The recipe for my inspiration, the San Permis:

San Permis

San Permis at Sapphire Restaurant Laguna Beach
Cava (Spanish Sparkling Wine - Chilled)
1 ounce Cointreau
Lavender Infused Honey (honey, lavender, orange zest)

Coat inside of Champagne glass with lavender infused honey.  Pour in Cointreau.  Top off with chilled Cava.

To read other Dorista's French Friday with Dorie experiences:


  1. Nice improvisation on the glaze! I'll have to try the San Permis - sounds delish. :)

  2. Christy, this is the first time I visit your blog and I really enjoy your post! The way you described about your sous chef's passion for Oregon Ducks really made me smile because you reminded me of my BF's loyalty to his team. The lavender-infused honey and orange juice combination sounds fantastic and I'm glad the dish turned out so well for you!

  3. Oooh, now I need to seek out (or make) a San Permis. That sounds awesome! Your duck looks delicious! I couldn't find duck breast, and scrapped the idea for a few weeks, until the supermarket said they'd have them. Nothing about the idea of breaking down an entire duck appeals to me.

  4. it IS nuts how much fat comes off the breasts, but it helps to keep the duck moist, huh? :) nuts anyways! Glad you liked it! Did you not want to use lime? I bet orange tasted more traditional! :)

  5. Entree salad = perfect idea. The greens would definitely help break up the richness of the duck. Great thinking.

  6. Love your lavender and orange twist on the glaze!

  7. The lavender honey sounds amazing. I'm going to have to be on the lookout! I sympathize with your football situation. We have the same thing at my house, only it's LSU. Tomorrow could either be a wonderful day, or a day that will live in infamy!

  8. My stovetop was such a mess even though I used a Dutch oven AND a splatterguard. It was worth it though. I loved this. Serving the slices over arugula sounds delicious. I really enjoy entree salads. I'm so glad you gave the recipe for hte San Permis. Bubbly is one of my favorite libations. Have a great weekend, Christy!

  9. I am so glad that I cooked my duck in my Dutch Oven because of the splattering - it was such a great tip. I loved the sauce so much and I bet it is just as delicious with orange juice. The skin on your duck looks so nice and thick and that cocktail looks perfect and I wish I could have one right now! TGIF!

  10. Love the sound of the orange and lavendar flavours. Your golden crisp duck looks great. The legs will take longer to cook, but I am not sure how long as I only found out by tasting that 20 min was not quite long enough - though it was for the thigh.

  11. Fantastic looking duck! I really should eat more of it but you know it can add up $$. I love your blog and will be checking back in :)
    Take care..

  12. Your meal looks so wonderful - and the orange and lavendar honey sound like they took it to another level. Beaufully done!

  13. I love the combo of arugula salad and the duck, it looks wonderful. I'm
    glad I used my dutch oven as well, it saved a lot of cleaning up. I like the
    sound of that orange and lavender added to the glaze.

  14. Beautiful duck!! I love your twist on the glaze...good call :)

  15. What a lovely well written post! I so look forward to reading more!

  16. Christy - I grew up in Palm Desert, but I didn't cook then and there weren't any Bristol Farms! Loved this post and your glaze, but you'll need to twist my arm on that cocktail...NOT...I'm all over that one ;-)

  17. Your duck looks amazing! I bet it made a great salad. I'm getting a whole duck from a farm tomorrow, so I'll have to break it down myself. It's sure to take more than 20 minutes to do this recipe, but I bet it will be worth it!

  18. What a great looking meal! Both of your duck dishes look fantastic! Can't wait to try this one. I have been looking forward to it for awhile and then I miss it because we were traveling. Very nice post!

  19. Nice post! Looks like a perfect meal.

  20. I just love how these take their color from that glaze and your take on it sounds great. your sous chef had me laughing. I finally got around to this for Chef's choice today and so glad i did.


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