Magret de canard is the breast from a fattened duck, the same duck that produces silken foie gras. It is a conundrum, more meat than poultry, and it’s a favorite in France. It’s a favorite with me, too, for its elegantly tender texture, and rich depth of flavor. In fact, it’s my favorite “meat”.
Magret is a dream to cook. It has a very thick layer of fat on it, which is part of the dream. Before you seize your chest in fear, you need to understand that the fat on the magret is “good” fat – high in unsaturated fats. It’s the fat of the French paradox which, basically, refers to the low incidence of heart disease in southwest France, where the populace eats a great deal of magret (and other derivative’s of foie gras ducks and geese), regularly drinks red wine. The combination, it is thought, helps keep heart disease at bay.
Health claims are certainly interesting, but what’s more interesting about magret is that it takes 12 minutes to cook and it wows your palate.
There are a couple of secrets for success when cooking magret.
– It should be at room temperature before being cooked
– Use a heavy skillet, and let it get so hot that a drop of water sizzles on it.
– Use no additional fat to cook it – put the magret, fat side down, right into the dry pan.
– Follow the timing on the recipe; don’t, whatever you do, increase it.
– Slice the cooked magret on the bias into quite thin slices. Prepare for the best!
– For those who are wary of eating rare duck, I promise you it is both delicious and safe. If you’re not convinced, take a few of those scrumptious, juicy, delectable thin slices and put them in the hot fat in the pan for 30 seconds. They won’t really cook more, but they’ll look cooked, and you’ll feel better!
Magret is available in the U.S. at many specialty markets, and from www.dartagnan.com
See the recipe below.
How to plate with a reduction sauce….
DUCK BREAST (MAGRET) WITH POMEGRANATE REDUCTION
MAGRET DE CANARD AU SIROP DE GRENADE
The juice from one juicy pomegranate (or 3/4 cup; 185ml pomegranate juice)
Two 13-ounce (390g) fattened duck breasts, skin scored almost to the meat with a sharp knife
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in four pieces, chilled
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper – optional
Fresh herbs – optional garnish
1. Place the pomegranate juice in a medium, heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Bring to a lively simmer and reduce until the juice is thickened to a syrup, and has reduced by about two-thirds, which will take about 10 minutes. Check the juice frequently to be sure it isn’t reducing too much. When the juice has reduced, remove it from the heat, and reserve.
2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. When it is hot but not smoking, place the duck breast in it, skin side down. Cover and cook it until the skin is deep golden, about 8 minutes. Flip the duck breast onto the meat side, then flip it immediately back onto the skin side and continue cooking 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Remove the duck breasts from the pan, and place them on a cutting board that will catch any juices that run from them. Season the duck breasts with salt and pepper and let rest for about 5 minutes.
4. To make the sauce, reheat the reduced pomegranate juice over low heat. Quickly whisk in the butter piece by piece, working on and off the heat so that it emulsifies into the pomegranate juice without melting, and thickens it slightly. Keep the sauce warm.
5. To serve, slice the duck breasts on the bias into ¼-inch thick slices, and arrange them in a rosette pattern just off-center on 6 to 8 warm dinner plates. Drizzle the duck with the pomegranate syrup, and drizzle the syrup around the edge of the plates, as well. Garnish with herbs, and serve immediately.
6 to 8 servings