Sliced Duck Breast with Cumberland Sauce, a sweet and savory appetizer or light meal, is easy to put together and can be prepared a day in advance and assembled at the last minute. It’s special enough for date night, an anniversary or a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Years ago, my husband and I had a favorite restaurant that we dined at on special occasions. They had an appetizer of cold smoked pheasant served with Cumberland Sauce that we remember to this day. What made the appetizer so memorable was the delicious sweet and savory sauce that was part of the dish, I could have eaten it by the spoonful. After searching for a cookbook with a Cumberland Sauce recipe, I came to find out that the sauce is a classic English recipe that is usually served alongside cold meats such as duck, goose, turkey, ham or lamb.
While smoked pheasant is not available in my area, boneless, skin on duck breast is carried in the frozen food section at our local market. While shopping one day, I thought about that appetizer and bought two of the frozen breasts and created this recipe for Sliced Duck Breast With Cumberland Sauce which I served on a bed of mixed field greens. This sophisticated sounding but ever so simple dish makes a delicious first course appetizer or a light entree. If you can’t find or don’t care for duck breast, think about using the flavorful Cumberland Sauce to top leftover cold sliced chicken, turkey or ham. It also makes a wonderful condiment to serve with a cold pâté or meat terrine.
Sliced Pan Seared Duck Breast
Serves two as a light entree or four as an appetizer, adjust the recipe accordingly.
- 2 duck breast halves about 5 – 6 oz. each
- salt and pepper to taste
- field greens of your choice, I used baby arugula and baby spinach
- Cumberland Sauce, see recipe below.
Remove the duck from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes. Use a sharp knife and score the skin in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut into the flesh itself. The scoring helps render the fat and keeps the skin crisp during cooking.
Pat the duck dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Place the breasts, skin side down, in a cold sauté pan and cook over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered and the skin is crispy and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn over and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes until the internal temperature of the duck reaches 135 degrees for medium rare or cook to your liking. If you cook the duck breast to 155 degrees, it will be medium well and slightly pink. Let the duck rest about 10 minutes before carving. It can also be made the day ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature and assemble just before serving. Toss mixed salad greens with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Divide the greens among plates. Slice the duck thinly and fan a few slices out on top of the greens. Drizzle with some of the Cumberland Sauce and serve. Extra sauce can be served at the table.
Recipe makes about 1 cup
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 5 Tbsp. lingonberry preserves, red currant jelly can be substituted
- 5 Tbsp. Tawny or Ruby Port
- 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1/4 tsp. mustard powder
Use a vegetable peeler or zester, remove the zest (peel) of the orange and lemon in wide strips 1 to 2 inches long, avoiding the white pith. Then slice the strips lengthwise into thin strips about 1/8 inch wide. Cut the orange and lemon in half, squeeze the juice out and reserve. Bring a small amount of water to a boil, add the sugar and the orange and lemon zest. Lower the heat and simmer the zest for about 3 minutes. Strain and reserve the zest.
Using the same pot, add the juice of the orange and lemon, the preserves, port, ginger and mustard and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy and thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes, then add in the reserved zest. Cool to room temperature and serve or refrigerate and serve cold. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.
Many of us used to make plans to go to our favorite romantic restaurant for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. That has changed for most of us now and we are staying home. If you would like to serve something special for the romantic evening meal but still want something easy to do, think about the duck breast appetizer. Duck breast has a juicy richness similar to a steak but is lighter and not as fatty or rich.
This duck breast recipe is special but easy to prepare. The breasts, which can be prepared in under 30 minutes, can also be made the day before. The flavorful Cumberland Sauce can be made days in advance. It only takes minutes to assemble the finished dish so that leaves you plenty of time for making a decadent dessert and setting a beautiful table for your special meal.