This dish is crazy delicious and fairly easy to make. I really like the couscous because it soaks up all the sauce and duck flavors. Go for two duck breasts that are relatively thin and similar in size for quick, even cooking.
Add boiling water, salt, and orange zest to instant couscous. Steam, and add orange juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Meanwhile, toast some almonds. I like using a pan so I can see what’s going on, but you can also roast them in the oven for a few minutes.
Add some onion, orange, mint, parsley, toasted almonds, and cherries. Feel free to sub in your favorite nuts, dried fruits, and herbs here.
Now for the duck, score the skin so all the wonderful duck fat can render and crisp everything up, and then season both sides. Start them in a cold pan, to render out as much fat (and therefore get as much crispiness) as possible.
Cook them over high heat on both sides until medium rare. I usually just go until they feel kind of bouncy. Tent them with some foil and let them rest while you start the sauce. Cook some shallots in the pan drippings, then add broth, cherries, sherry, honey, and orange peel. The original recipe calls for orange blossom honey, which is great since orange goes really well with duck, but I didn’t feel like getting a whole new thing of honey just for this. So, I threw in some orange peel to get the orangey goodness instead. Either way is fine. Cook everything into a glaze, and add some butter, salt, and pepper.
Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce and Couscous Recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
2 duck breasts
salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
8 halved pitted sweet red cherries, fresh or frozen and thawed
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey, or 1 tablespoon plain honey + 1 inch strip orange peel
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup instant couscous
1 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons good extra-virgin olive oil
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, peeled, segmented and diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup almonds (whole, slivered, whatever you like)
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Let the duck come to room temperature. Meanwhile make the couscous: add the boiling water, salt, and orange zest to the couscous. Cover and let steam 5 minutes. Remove lid, add orange juice, vinegar, and olive oil, and fluff with a fork.
2. Toast the almonds in a pan over high heat, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes until slightly toasted. Remove from pan, cool, and chop if desired.
3. Add the onion, orange, mint, parsley, toasted almonds, and cherries.
4. Mix gently to combine, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Using a sharp knife, score the skin on both duck breasts in a grid pattern, being careful no to cut through into the flesh. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
6. Place duck breasts skin side down in a cold cast iron pan, then turn to high heat.
7. Cook until skin is deep brown, about 7 minutes. Flip, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until duck is medium rare, about another 7 minutes. Remove breasts to a plate and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
8. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pan, and add shallots.
9. Cook over high heat 30 seconds, then add the broth, cherries, sherry, honey, and orange peel if using.
10. Continue cooking the sauce until it becomes a thick glaze, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
11. Slice the duck to desired thickness.
12. Plate on top of couscous, and top with the cherry sauce.