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Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Fig-Shallot Gastrique

Pan-roasted duck breast with fig-shallot gastrique. 

I was intimidated by duck, and my earliest attempts didn't help.

My daughter and I, some years ago, shared a wonderful dinner in Paris at Allard, the venerable Left Bank bistro on Rue l'Eperon in the Sixth Arrondissement. The centerpiece of the meal was a whole roasted duck with olives. But subsequently when I tried whole roasted duck myself the result was disappointing, to say the least. I blamed it on the duck, or on my inexperience with cooking duck -- and backed away from duck for a long time. 

Enter magret, the breast fillet from a fatted Moulard duck, and the absolutely reliable pan-roasting method I acquired somewhere along the line. These breasts are available fresh in U.S. supermarkets in cryovac packs and this method produces perfectly satisfying rare slices of flavorful duck breast every time, without fail. All you have to do is decide what to serve with the duck to take full advantage. 

Figs are a popular accompaniment to duck so the idea of a fig gastrique seemed to me to be an obvious choice. (A gastrique is, according to Wikipedia, "a thick sauce produced by a reduction of vinegar or wine, sugar, and usually fruit.") Figs simmered in wine, with spices and balsamic vinegar...what could be bad about this?

Although duck has a bad rep in terms of heathly eating (for supposedly being fatty) the nutritional analysis of this dish says otherwise. With 7 grams of fat per serving and only 3 grams of carbohydrates this dish should have a place in any weight-watching or glucose-control diet plan. 

Don't be intimidated by duck! This is an easy, healthy, reliable recipe -- quick, flavorful and so, so good. 

Pan-Roasted Duck Breast with Fig-Shallot Gastrique

Print recipe only.

Serves 4


  • 1 Magret duck breast fillet (about 1 pound)
  • Coarse salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the gastrique: 

  • 2 teaspoons minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 dried Turkish figs, quartered, stems removed
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Balsamic vinegar, to taste


Preheat the oven to 350º. 

1. Wash the duck breast and dry thoroughly. Score the skin side of the breast deeply with a sharp knife at half-inch intervals. Season each side with coarse salt and a grinding of pepper. 

2. Place a teaspoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet and set the pan on high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke add the duck breast, skin side down. Sear undisturbed for about 4 minutes. Turn the breast and sear the meat side another minute. 

3. Drain off excess fat from the pan. Place the skillet with the duck in the preheated oven. Roast, uncovered, to an internal temperature of about 128º (about 20 minutes). When the duck has reached the desired temperature remove from the pan and place on a side plate. Cover with foil and allow to rest about ten minutes.

4. While the duck is roasting and then resting, place the shallots in a small pan with one teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring, until the shallots begin to turn golden. Add the figs, wine, ground cloves and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently until the mixture starts to thicken, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add balsamic vinegar to taste. 

To serve, slice the breast and arrange on the plates. Place a generous spoonful of the gastrique on each plate. 

Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings. Per serving: 168 Calories; 3 g Total Carbs; 0 g Dietary Fiber; 2 g Sugars; 7 g Fat; 86 mg Cholesterol; 55 mg Sodium; 16 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 4 points.

Print recipe only.


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