Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

Wild Muscovy Duck

By Cat, July 2020 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

I finally found a frozen duck breast at my local grocer and just had to buy it; now I get to decide what recipe to use. I love duck with any kind of fruit sauce, so I’ve decided to give this recipe a try, since I LOVE plums.

It uses plum preserves, and of course, it’s best to make your own (for the healthiest ingredients). I’ve chosen a recipe from Epicurious (5) that makes about 1½ cups preserves (from 1 lb dried plums); it is quick and simple, and the end product can be frozen rather than canned.

I’ve included my test recipe for the plum preserves (using dried plums/prunes) below the duck recipe. If I like the results, I may move the full  recipe to its own page.

Plum-Glazed Duck Breasts

This recipe, adapted from a Fine-Cooking recipe (1a), provides ingredient amounts for 2 duck breast-halves, with amounts in parenthesis for 1 duck breast-half. Depending on the breed, each half-breast half can weigh between 8 and 16 ounces; I’ve adapted recipe for 8-10 oz breast halves.

About Ingredients and Method

Brining the duck: I highly recommend brining the breasts because it helps retain moisture in the meat. If you do brine them, you will  not need to add salt (tho it can be added at the table).However, I’m not sure about about the amount of salt per cup of water for brining a duck, nor about the time to let it sit in the brine (in the fridge). 

The Outdoor Hub article about brining a duck (6) suggests different amount of salt and brine time than my chart:

  1. Outdoor Hub article (6):
    • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt per 2 -2 ½  cups of water, and
    • a “couple” hours of brine time;
  2. My chart (sources as noted):
    • 3⅓ – 4 Tbsp Kosher salt per 2 cups water (depending on brand of Kosher salt) (7), and 
    • 6 – 12 hours of brine time (8)

Soy sauce: The original recipe calls for reduced-sodium soy sauce. Because most soy sauce is made from GMO soy, I prefer to use either of the following:

  • Tamari sauce, the original soy sauce which is made from fermented soy; it has less salt than regular soy, is naturally gluten-free and has a richer flavor than regular soy. See Dr. Axe’s article (4) about why Tamari is so much better, and better for you, than regular soy.
  • Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (2), which is made from non-GMO soy with no added salt (sodium), and is naturally gluten-free. According to The Spruce Eats (3), it “tastes closer to tamari, a sauce made from fermented soybeans, than regular soy sauce, which is a bit stronger and saltier.” 

Plum or other preserves: If you can’t find plum preserves, try cherry or red-currant preserves, or make your own. I’ve included a Quick Plum Preserves recipe (below), which is more like a thick sauce, and works well in this recipe.

I have tested the Quick Plum Preserves recipe, but have not yet tested the duck breast recipe.

Ingredients and Equipment, for 2 (1) duck breast halves

  • 2 (1) boneless, skin-on duck breast halves (about 8-10 oz. each), brined
  • Unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt (if you don’t brine breasts)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup (4-5 Tbsp) plum or other fruit preserves (see my quick recipe, below)
  • 1 – 1½ Tbsp. (½ – ¾ tsp) tamari sauce or Bragg liquid amino (adjust amount to taste)
  • ¼ (⅛) tsp Chinese five-spice powder (adjust amount to taste)
  • Pinch (tiny pinch) crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 3 (1-2) green onions or scallions, thinly sliced (for garnish)
  • Equipment:
  • 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty skillet) 
  • small bowl

Method

  1. Prep plum preserves: If using commercial or previously made preserves, skip this step. If making your own Quick Plum Preserves (see recipe, below), prepare at least 1- day before roasting the duck. 
  2. Brine duck breast(s): Trim any excess skin and fat from the breast(s), and brine them in refrigerator, 6 – 10 hours or overnight. Refer to brine-ingredients and brine-time charts in my Brining Poultry article. NOTE: The Outdoor Hub article about brining a duck (6) suggests 1 Tbsp Kosher salt per 2 -2 ½  cups of water, which is about half the amount listed in my chart. That article also recommends less brine time (2 – 2½ hours) than my chart (6 or more hours). Brining a duck replaces its blood with brine, so when brined enough, the duck-meat should be lighter in color (less red).
  3. Remove from brine and pat dry.
  4. Next day: Position a rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat the oven to 425°F.
  5. Preserves-Sauce Mixture: In a small bowl, combine the preserves, tamari or Liquid Aminos, five-spice powder, and red pepper flakes. Set aside (for use when roasting the duck breast(s), below).
  6. Score the remaining skin and fat underneath in a 1-inch diamond pattern, taking care not to cut the flesh. Season generously with pepper (and Unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt if you didn’t brine the breast(s))..
  7. Roast duck breast(s): Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy-duty skillet) over medium-high heat. Put the duck in the skillet, skin side down, reduce heat to medium low, and render the fat until only a thin, crisp layer of skin remains, about 8 minutes.
  8. Turn breast(s) over, carefully spoon off most of the fat from the skillet.
  9. Brush the preserves-sauce mixture over the breasts.
  10. Transfer skillet to preheated oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a breast registers 135°F for medium rare, 8 to 10 minutes.
  11. Transfer breast(s) to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
  12. Meanwhile, tilt the skillet and spoon off as much fat from the pan juice as possible. 
  13. Slice breast(s) diagonally into ¼-inch slices. Arrange on plates and spoon the pan juice over. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and serve.

Serve the duck with Steamed Jasmine Rice (1b) or my own steamed wild rice recipe. Fine Cooking also recommends accompanying with some seared baby bok choy which is hard to find here in my rural community, so I will serve with braised kale or Brussels sprouts.

Testing Plum-Glazed Duck Breast (with homemade quick plum preserves)

8/?/20: x

 

Quick Plum Preserves (Sauce)

I have an Italian plum tree (the variety used to make prunes), but the fruit is not-yet ripe as of this testing, so I will reconstitute dried plums as the main ingredient in the preserves, using instructions from WikiHow (9). RULE OF THUMB: Generally, 1 cup of dried fruit will make approximately 1½ cups of reconstituted fruit (10,11) (or ½ cup (8 Tbsp) dried = ¾ cup (12 Tbsp), reconstituted).

The preserves recipe is adapted from an Epicurious recipe (5) that can be refrigerated up to a week, or frozen instead of canned, to retain its nutrients. it takes about 2 hours to make (including rest-time).  The original makes 2½ cups; I’ve adapted it for about ¼ cup (amounts in parenthesis), for testing and to use in the duck recipe above (using one 8-oz duck half-breast). 

Ingredients and Equipment

Amounts are for 2½ cups preserves, or (⅓-⅔ cup preserves in parenthesis); I’ve not yet tested the larger amount, but see “Testing” below for the smaller amount.

For the smaller amount of preserves, 1.5 oz dried fruit should produce ~ 4 – 5 Tbsp or ¼ – ⅓ cup reconstituted and chopped. If you get a different result, please let me know (“cmhaug44 (at) gmail (dot) com”). 

  • plums:
    • 1 lb (3 oz) fresh, firm-ripe red, black, or Italian plums; or use other fruits such as cherries, apricots or currants. Or
    • OR ½ lb  (1.5 oz) dried plums (Prunes) or other dried fruit; enough to fill 1 cup (4-5 Tbsp or ¼- ⅓ cup) after reconstituting. 
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp (1 – 2 tsp) Rapadura or light-brown cane sugar, depending on desired sweetness 
  • ¼ cup (2 Tbsp) filtered water, or excess water from reconstituting dried plums
  • 1½″ (about ¼″) of a cinnamon stick 
  • Equipment:
  • heavy saucepan with lid (or small cast iron fry-pan if you don’t have a heavy saucepan)
  • wooden spoon or other tool for stirring a thick sauce
  • Mason jar with lid for storage

Method:

  1. If using fresh fruit: Wash, halve plums, removing pit from each, then go to step 3, below.
  2. If using dried plums (or other dried fruit), reconstitute them with water (from WikiHow (9) unless noted otherwise). Generally, 1 cup of dried fruit will make approximately 1½ cups of reconstituted fruit (10,11). Use 1½ – 2 oz dried plums for each half-breast.
    1. Place dried fruit in bowl; they should come no more than halfway up sides of bowl.
    2. Cover with filtered water and set in fridge to soak at least 12 hours or overnight. Check every 3 – 4 hours to determine if need more water to keep them covered, but remember that too much water can cause a lack of flavor.** 
    3. Alternately, cover with hot, boiled water; they should plump-up in 10-15 min. (12)
    4. Test fruit to see if reconstituted enough; add more water and let rest longer if needed.
    5. When reconstituted enough, strain to drain off any remaining water. Save the drained water for cooking the plums in step 3, below
    6. Halve each fruit, then proceed with step 3, below.
  3. Preserves: Coarsely chop the halves, and stir together with sugar, water, and cinnamon stick in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally (more often toward end of cooking to prevent sticking), until thickened and reduced to about 1 cup, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Discard cinnamon stick and cool preserves. Transfer to an airtight container and chill, covered.

‘** WikiHow suggests adding another inch (2.5 cm) above the dried fruit when you first cover with water, but I think it’s better to check every few hours and add more water only if needed. Some instructions suggest using boiling water to cover the fruit; in that case they will plump up sooner _ hours/minutes. However using cool water and allowing them to soak longer provides better results.

Testing Plum Preserves

7/21-22/20: I will make a small batch of the preserves, as I only need a tablespoon or less for a single-breast duck recipe, and I rarely eat preserves because I’m doing keto.  Mixed with:

  • 1 oz of dried plums, reconstituted & chopped (see below for reconstituting); should fill between ¼ and ⅓ cup when chopped, hopefully enough for another breast for another time,
  • scant 1 tsp sugar,
  • 2 Tbsp water (saved from soak), and a
  • small section of a cinnamon stick.

To reconstitute plums: Placed dried plums in small bowl and covered with water. Put into fridge at 4:30 PM 7/21/20. Removed next morning at 11 AM; they have plumped up nicely, and soaking water is colored from the plums. I will save the water to use when cooking the preserves. Result: Made ~ 2 Tbsp chopped reconstituted plums, half of what I intended (next time use 1.5 oz dried plums for each half-breast; I’ve updated recipe accordingly). Simmered about 25 min. Got just shy of ¼ cup. Next time, I’ll double amounts for the preserves (to make ⅓-⅔ cup of preserves), and I added that as an option to recipe above. 

NOTE: I didn’t get around to making the duck recipe right away, so put the preserves in the fridge on 8/1/20

References:

  1. Fine Cooking:
    1. finecooking.com/recipe/plum-glazed-duck-breasts
    2. finecooking.com/recipes/steamed-jasmine-rice.aspx
  2. bragg.com/products/liquid-aminos
  3. thespruceeats.com/what-are-braggs-liquid-aminos-3376805
  4. draxe.com/nutrition/tamari/
  5. epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/quick-plum-preserves-106774
  6. How to brine a duck: outdoorhub.com/how-to/2018/03/30/quacking-code-brine-duck/
  7. Salt-to-Water ratios for brining: forums.egullet.org/topic/28308-brining
  8. Brine time for duck breasts: ehow.com/how_8277968_brine-duck.html
  9. wikihow.com/Reconstitute-Dried-Fruit
  10. healthfully.com/how-to-dehydrate-bananas-in-a-food-dehydrator-8106203.html 
  11. Virginia Cooperative Extension pdf:  Using dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, Meats: pubs.ext.vt.edu/content/dam/pubs_ext_vt_edu/348/348-597/348-597(FST-304NP).pdf 
  12. food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/rehydrate-rock-hard-dried-fruit-with-clever-hack-0169303/

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