These Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts with Arugula Salad are the perfect meal for the holidays and fancy enough for special occasions. The rich duck is balanced by a cherry-infused sauce that cuts through the fat and gives you a beautiful flavor combination in every bite.
With a nip in the air and the smell of smoke from countless fireplaces lingering on the cool breeze, my mind is filled with thoughts of what foods and treats I will make for the holidays. I love this time of year and am always looking for fun new recipes to try. What about you? Do you tend to stay with the traditions or branch out to try something different?
I have the perfect meal for any special occasion, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Valentine’s Day and it comes together in no time! You can make a couple of the components in advance and save yourself even more time on the day of your event. I love recipes like that, don’t you!
When I want to serve a memorable meal for the holidays, there are several entrees that come to mind … prime rib, crown pork roast, beef tenderloin, and for me one of the most delectable and classic of them all, a beautiful duck breast with a luxurious sauce.
These days the ducks we get are farm-raised and quite mild flavored. But unlike chicken and turkey, duck has a deeper resonating flavor that pairs beautifully with a wide variety of red wines, from earthy Pinot Noirs to luscious Cabernet Francs and the rich wines of Burgundy, France. Even spicy Petit Syrah and Zinfandel can complement duck making it an extremely versatile choice for your main course.
Today’s recipe pairs boneless duck breasts served with a cherry gastrique, a sauce that balances sweet and sour flavors with fresh herbs and savory aromatics. The result is a sauce that cuts through the richness of the duck, enhancing its natural flavors and tantalizing your taste buds. And bonus, you get to save all that delicious duck fat to use for frying potatoes or other special treats!
This sauce would also be delicious on smoked ham, pork loin and turkey as a nice change of pace from the more traditional cranberry sauce for your holiday table. When you see a recipe you like, think about other ways you could utilize it to perk up your regular weeknight meals.
While I served my duck with just a simple arugula salad, you could certainly add other side dishes to fill out the meal. Adding some potatoes or rice would let you serve a smaller portion of duck per person, helping your budget and stretching your dollars a bit further. I liked the clean flavors of the salad and the slight sweetness of the vinaigrette against the very rich and decadent duck. It was a perfectly balanced meal and very healthy.
When you are planning meals for the special people in your life, I hope you will consider making this beautiful Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts with Arugula Salad. Everyone will know how much you treasure them when you treat them like royalty!
I hope everyone has the most wonderful Christmas and New Year’s Eve, full of joy and laughter. Happy Holidays to you all!
Did you enjoy this recipe? Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you!
Key Ingredients for Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts with Arugula Salad:
- Cherry Glaze: Dried tart cherries, pomegranate liqueur or juice, olive oil, onion, garlic, dry mustard, salt and pepper, red wine, cherry preserves, balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme sprigs or dried thyme
- Duck: boneless, skin-on duck breasts, onion powder, salt and pepper
- Salad: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, baby arugula or watercress, chives, pecans
Why do you cut the fat on the top of the duck?
By scoring the fat cap on the duck breasts, you help render the fat and wind up with perfectly crispy skin that has a gorgeous diamond design on it – such a beautiful presentation if you choose to serve the breasts whole.
When scoring the duck fat cap, be careful not to cut into the meat beneath it. You want to keep as much juice as possible in the duck breast.
Several of the components of this dinner can be made ahead. Save yourself time and rushing around on the day you are serving this by having those parts already made. The macerated cherries, glaze, and dressing can all be made ahead letting you focus your attention on properly cooking the duck.
How to make Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts with Arugula Salad:
- Make the Glaze: Bring the cherries and pomegranate liqueur to a boil, remove from the heat and set aside to soak; using a slotted spoon, scoop half the cherries into a small bowl and set aside for use in the salad, the remaining cherries and pomegranate liquid is used in the glaze
- Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onions until softened, then stir in the garlic and cook 30 seconds; stir in the mustard, salt, pepper, wine, preserves, vinegar, and thyme
- Stir in the reserved half of the cherries in the pomegranate liquid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes; discard the thyme sprigs, taste and adjust the seasonings
- Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture being sure to keep the head of the blender fully immersed in the liquid; keep warm over low heat
- Transfer a couple of tablespoons of the sauce to a small bowl (to brush on the duck) and keep the rest for plating; glaze can be made ahead and reheated
- Prep the Duck: Use a sharp knife to cut parallel diagonal lines through the skin and fat, avoiding cutting into the meat; turn the breast around and make cuts in the opposite direction forming diamonds on the top of each breast
- Sprinkle each breast with a little onion powder, salt, and pepper; set aside
- Cook the Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts: Start the duck in a cold skillet and cook over medium-high heat until it starts to release the fat, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the fat is rendered and the skin is golden brown and crispy
- Flip the breasts over so the skin-side is facing up and brush with a little of the reserved glaze, cook 1 minute the flip them over again, skin-side down and brush the meat surface with more of the glaze; flip them again and cook until they reach 135°F on an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each breast
- Remove from the pan and let rest on a cutting board 10 to 15 minutes
- Make the Dressing: Place the oil, vinegar, xanthan gum and salt and pepper in a small jar with a tight lid and shake briskly until emulsified; dressing can be made a couple of days in advance
- Lightly toss the arugula with some of the dressing, add the chives and pecans and toss again to combine; taste and adjust seasonings as needed
- To Serve: Spread some of the glaze on each plate; slice the duck breasts crosswise on the bias following the cut lines
- Arrange the duck slices on each plate and add half the salad to each plate and sprinkle with the reserved cherries; serve immediately passing leftover glaze at the table
One of the tricks of cooking duck is to cook it at a low enough temperature that you can render all the fat before the skin gets too brown. Patience is key with this – don’t be tempted to turn up the heat and rush the process.
Dried tart cherries are the ones you want to use to make pies or for sauces like todays. Sweet cherries are too sweet and will result in an unbalanced sauce.
Recommended Tools (affiliate links; no extra cost to you):
- Chef’s knife and paring knife
- Cutting board
- Small saucepan
- Mixing bowls
- Medium saucepan
- Immersion blender
- Nonstick skillet
- Silicone brush
- Instant read thermometer
This meal is naturally gluten-free! You can also adjust any recipe to gluten-free by using 120 grams per cup of my favorite gluten-free flour blend. If you are using another brand of gluten-free flour, whisk the mix, spoon it lightly into a measuring cup until mounded, level off the top with a straight edge, and weigh the flour. Use that weight as your standard per cup of that specific flour. Commercial blends such as Pamela’s, Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1, or King Arthur Measure for Measure are all good choices.
Cherry Glazed Duck Breasts with Arugula Salad (Gluten-Free)
When you are planning meals for the special people in your life, I hope you will consider making this beautiful cherry glazed duck. Everyone will know how much you treasure them when you treat them like royalty!
- 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/4 cup pomegranate liqueur or pomegranate juice
- 1 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup dry red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Malbec, optional
- 6 tbsp cherry preserves
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or cherry balsamic vinegar
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
Pan Seared Duck
- 2 boneless skin-on duck breasts
- Onion powder
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp organic olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or cherry balsamic vinegar
- Pinch xanthan gum, optional
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/3 cups baby arugula or watercress
- 2 tsp minced chives
- 3 tbsp toasted pecan halves, coarsely chopped
- Prep the Cherries for the Glaze and Salad: In a small saucepan, combine the cherries and pomegranate liqueur. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, remove from the heat and set aside to macerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer half to a bowl. These will be used in the salad. The rest of the cherries and the remaining pomegranate liqueur will be used in the glaze.
- Make the Glaze: In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until onions are softened and beginning to lightly brown. Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute, stirring, or until fragrant. Stir in the mustard, salt, pepper, wine, preserves, vinegar, and thyme. Stir in half the macerated cherries and all the liqueur, reserve the remaining cherries separately.
- Bring the glaze to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the thyme sprigs. Taste and adjust seasonings to your personal taste. If you like a sweeter sauce, add a little more jam. Add another pinch of salt and pepper for a more intense savory slant.
- Use an immersion blender to partially puree the solids. Tip the saucepan to one side to make sure the blender head is completely immersed. Pulse the blender or you will wind up with splashed glaze all over you. Keep warm over low heat.
- Transfer a few tablespoons of the glaze to a small bowl for brushing on the duck; keep the rest for plating.
- The glaze can be made up to a day or two in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator. Rewarm gently before continuing with the recipe.
- Prep the Duck: Pat the duck dry and set skin-side up on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut parallel diagonal slits through the skin and fat - but NOT into the meat - along the length of each breast. Cut an equal number of slits in the opposite direction, creating a diamond pattern. Sprinkle both sides with a little onion powder, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Pan Sear the Duck: Starting in a cold 10-inch nonstick skillet, place the duck skin-side down in the pan.Cook for a couple of minutes on medium-high to get it started, then turn the heat down to medium and continue to cook, rendering as much of the fat as possible. Flip it once to seal the other side, returning it fat-side down. When the skin is browned and crispy, transfer the duck to a plate and pour off all but 1 tbsp of the fat. Return the duck to the pan, skin-side up and brush the top with a little of the glaze and flip breasts over to finish the skin side, about 1 minute. Brush the underside with the glaze, flip them back over again and cook until the internal temperature reaches 135°F.
- Transfer the breasts to a clean cutting board and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting. This allows the juices to redistribute through the meat and finish cooking to a nice medium-rare.
- Make the Salad Dressing: Place the oil, vinegar, xanthan gum and a pinch each of salt and pepper into a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake briskly until well blended and emulsified. This dressing can be made a few days in advance and refrigerated in the jar. Return to room temperature before tossing with the salad.
- Assemble the Arugula Salad: Wash the arugula and spin dry. Place in a mixing bowl and add about 2 tbsp of the dressing. Toss until all the leaves are lightly coated. Add the chives and pecans, tossing again to distribute and coat with the dressing. Taste and add more dressing, salt or pepper if needed.
- To Serve: Spoon some of the glaze onto the plates. If you want it to look like the pro chefs, drag the back of the spoon through the glaze and across the plate, forming a comet tail commonly referred to as a “swoosh”. Take a look at my photo above and don’t worry about completely filling it in because it will be covered with the duck slices.
- Spread a light coating of the sauce on the duck and slice diagonally into 5 to 6 pieces. Fan the pieces slightly and place them on top of the sauce on the plates. Place some of the arugula salad in the arc of the duck and sprinkle each salad with a few of the reserved cherries for color. Serve immediately. Pass additional sauce at the table if desired.
- Recipe Source: The Heritage Cook
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I just subscribed you and sent you an email Dianne. Thanks for joining the fun! Happy 2016!
Absolutely beautiful plated dish! Nice job on those duck breasts.
Thanks so much Chris, big points from such a pro griller! I love this recipe and look forward to making it each time!
It’s been waaaaay toooo long since I’ve had duck. Coming from Long Island, I have many a duck dinner under my belt. Yours looks fabulous!!!
Thank you so much for sharing…Merry Christmas, Jane!!!
I hope your holidays have been fabulous Louise! Here’s to an outstanding 2016 with plenty of delicious duck dinners!