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Seared Duck Breast with Figs and Pinot Noir Shallot Sauce

Serves: Makes 4 servings


  • 2 large (12 to 16 ounce) duck breasts, skin on
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup Pinot Noir or other fruity red wine
  • 6 fresh figs, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch dice


To prepare duck: Score the skin (but not the meat) in a cross-hatch pattern, making the cross-hatches about ½-inch across; this helps the fat render and crisps up the skin. Generously season duck breasts with salt and pepper. Add duck breasts, skin side down to a dry skillet and set over medium heat to slowly render down the fat. While rendering, pour off the fat regularly into a bowl or jar and keep for later use. After 8 to 10 minutes, flip duck breasts over and cook flesh side down for 2 to 4 minutes more. Transfer breasts to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.

To make pan sauce: Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from skillet and return over medium heat. Add shallot and 1 tablespoon thyme and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add broth and wine and cook, scraping the bottom of the skillet to release browned bits. Add figs and simmer until figs are heated through and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in butter. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm over low heat.

To serve: Slice breasts into ¼-inch thick slices on the diagonal using a sharp slicing knife. Divide slices evenly between 4 warmed serving plates, overlapping the slices slightly. Ladle 2 to 3 ounces of sauce over the duck slices. Garnish with remaining 1 tablespoon thyme and serve immediately.

Recipe developed for Sur La Table’s Cooking Classes

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