Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pan Seared Five-Spice Duck Breast with Plum Wine Sauce

When I heard that Ott, A was going to be hosting an Iron Chef Challenge, I was intrigued.  I like to cook, but I can hardly call myself a chef.  I also enjoy eating duck, but I think I've only eaten it 3 times.  Once it was excellent (surprisingly at the Safe House one New Year's Eve many years ago), once it was ok (so unmemorable that I don't know where that was), and once it was awful (at a local Asian restaurant...good sushi, bad duck). 

I scoured my cookbooks and the internet looking for the perfect recipe.  I thought of doing a duck sausage, just so that I could use the grinder attachment for my stand mixer.  But I didn't want to get in over my head.  I still may try this option in the future.  Maybe stir fry the sausage with some veggies and a garlicy ginger soy sauce.  Yum!

I did narrow down my search to Asian recipes...when you've got a craving, you have to go with it.  I decided on a delicious sounding recipe I found at the Food Network...Seared Five-Spice Duck Breast with Plum Wine Sauce.  And the best part was that I loved all the ingredients!  Yay!  I've been known to be picky and leave out onions or other ingredients I don't like.  For the sides I chose Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Orange Scented Snow Peas.  Since I was going all out, I made dessert...Plum Wine Poached Asian Pear.

The first step was to track down some duck.  The was easy once I found the right store.  I'm loving Grasch Foods.  They have an extensive selection of 'different' meats.  I saw ostrich, elk, buffalo, goat, wild boar, venison (although this can hardly be labeled as 'different'...probably half of the freezers in Wisconsin have venison), and duck!  They carried fresh and frozen duck, and a wide variety of Maple Leaf Farms duck products.  Because Maple Leaf Farms is sponsoring this month's Iron Chef contest, and they supplied me with a $5 off coupon, I picked up 2 of their frozen duck breast filets.  They are convenient because when you cook the breasts, you need to score the skin, and these come pre-scored.  For someone who's never cooked duck before, this takes the guesswork out of it!

I prepared the breasts to be marinated a day in advance.  The marinade included the chopped up ginger and the white part of the scallions, the five spice powder, freshly ground black pepper and some sea salt.

I added the sesame oil, mixed it all together, and put it in a Ziploc bag.  Then I added the duck breasts and refrigerated them for 24 hours.

The next day was D-Day...Duck Day!  I got my homemade chicken stock out, and some plum wine.

I heated a pan (NOT a non-stick pan) over medium high heat.  Then I added the duck with the skin side down until the skin was seared.  Do not touch the duck.  Don't poke at it and move it around.  Just leave it alone so it sears nicely.  Then flip it over and sear the other side.  We're not fully cooking the breasts, so don't leave them for too long.

See that nice sear?  Beautiful! 

After both sides have been seared, place them on an oven-proof plate (I used my knock-off Le Creuset Dutch Oven) and cook them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

While the duck is in the oven, you've got to make the plum wine sauce.  Go back to the same pan you seared the duck in.  Pour off the fat, but leave the stuck on goodness that is left behind.

Add the wine and chicken stock and deglaze the pan.  I used a wooden spoon.  I don't know why you use a wooden spoon when you deglaze, but you do.  Let the sauce simmer and reduce to 1 cup.  After it's reduced, add the butter (of course I used my homemade butter).

This is what the duck looked like when it came out of the oven.  Let it rest for at least 5 minutes.  I let it rest for about 10 because it took that long to let the sauce reduce.

After the duck was rested, I sliced it, and added the sauce.  Check out this plate!

Here's some info about the sides I made!

For the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, I roasted the garlic in the oven.  Mmm, I love roasted garlic!  If you've never roasted garlic, it's simple.  Cut the top off, drizzle a little olive oil on top of the garlic, and make a little aluminum foil packet to roast it in.

It comes out looking like this.  The cloves are mushy and squeeze right out.

Here's the wasabi powder.

I made a paste of the roasted garlic, wasabi powder and a little water.

I put my cooked potatoes through a potato ricer (I prefer this to a mixer...I tend to over-mix and make the potatoes to starchy).  Then I mixed everything all up and ate them!  I went easy on the wasabi powder because I've never worked with it before.  I could have added more, but they were still tasty!

Ah dessert!  Honestly...I'm not a huge fan of pears.  I find them too grainy.  But I was in an adventurous mood.  I picked up an Asian pear.  I did some of the prep work a day ahead of time.  I cut it in half and spooned out the middle.

I put the pomegranate juice and plum wine in a pot with the Asian pear (cut side down).  I simmered them in the wine/juice for 20 minutes.  After they cooled, I put them in a container with their juice in the fridge overnight.

This is what they looked like the next day.  I dried them with a paper towel then dipped them in sugar.  Meanwhile, I heated a grill pan on high heat (the recipe said grill, but hey...it's winter here in Wisconsin).

I put them on the hot grill pan until the sugar crystalized.  It took about 15 seconds!

Here's what it looked like!  Mmmm!  Pear!  I added some vanilla ice cream and pomegranate seeds.

This dessert was wonderful...and coming from someone who doesn't care for pears, that's huge!  I'd make it again!  And my 2 year old son loved it too.

My afterthoughts:  I really enjoyed the duck.  I've heard that duck is more like red meat than poultry.  I didn't quite believe it.  I've eaten it before.  But not like this.  Both my husband and I were shocked at the taste and texture of the duck breast...it was like eating a steak...a juicy filet mignon.  My diet-minded husband, who didn't even want to even try the duck, said he'd eat it again.  I'd call it a giant success.


Seared Five-Spice Duck Breast with Plum Wine Sauce


  • 10 ounces boneless duck breast with skin
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 3 scallion heads white part only, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 ounces sesame oil
  • 2 cups duck stock or canned chicken stock
  • 1 cup plum wine
  • 1 ounce unsalted butter

Marinate the duck breast with 5 spice powder, ginger root, scallions, salt, pepper and sesame oil for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Heat skillet on moderately high heat, do not add any oil. Sear duck breast skin side down, brown both sides. Transfer duck to oven proof plate and cook the duck in the oven for 10 minutes for medium rare. Pour off grease form the skillet, add plum wine, add duck stock season with salt and pepper and reduce the sauce to 1 cup. Then incorporate the butter to the sauce and set aside and keep warm. Remove duck from oven let it set for 5 minutes before slicing.

Wasabi Mashed Potatoes


  • 1 medium head garlic
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 12 potatoes
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 teaspoons wasabi powder
  • water as needed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Remove papery outer skin of garlic bulb. Rub with olive oil and place on a small baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until skin can be easily pierced with a fork.
  3. While garlic is roasting, peel and quarter the potatoes. Place in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow potatoes to simmer until very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain water and mash potatoes with butter until smooth and fluffy.
  4. Squeeze softened garlic cloves out of skin into pot; in a small bowl, mix wasabi powder with just enough water to form a thick paste. Mash garlic and wasabi paste into potatoes, pour in milk and continue to mash until mixture is light and fluffy; season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

Orange Scented Sugar Snap Peas


  • 1 1/2 Pounds Sugar Snap Peas
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Teaspoons Finely Shredded Orange Peel


1. In a large saucepan, cover sugar snap peas with cold water. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer until crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. Drain well and return to same pan. Add butter, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until butter melts, stirring frequently. Transfer to a serving bowl; top with orange peel.

Plum Wine Poached Asian Pear


  • 2 small firm Asian pears, peeled
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 2 cups Japanese plum wine
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Mint leaves [or pomegranate seeds], for garnish


Cut the Asian pears in half vertically. Use a small spoon to scoop out the core. Put the 4 halves in a pot large enough to fit the pears in a single layer.
Cover the pears with the pomegranate juice and plum wine. Add more juice and wine if the pears are not completely covered. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let the pears come to room temperature in the pot. Remove the pears and juice from the pot and put in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat a grill [or grill pan] to high.
When you're ready to serve the pears, dry each half thoroughly using paper towels. Put the sugar on a shallow plate and dip the flat side of each half in the sugar. Put each pear half, flat side down, on a very hot grill and grill until the sugar is brown and bubbly.
Transfer the pears to serving plates, flat side up. Put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the middle of each pear and garnish with mint [or pomegranate seeds]


  1. Wow! That all looks so delicious! I'm very intrigued by the pear dessert. I may have to give that a try!

  2. This looks so good, I would almost drive all the way to Wisconsin to eat it. I'm so impressed with your plum wine sauce, as I have a bottle of plum wine and am going to use it on this recipe the next time I fix duck. Thanks so much for linking up to the challenge!!!

  3. Wow! Thanks for all the great ideas and inspiration. It would have taken me a week to upload all the pics! :)

  4. This is on my to-make list! soon!


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