The duck, noting chill air and dusky sky, takes off. In arrow-sharp formation, his squadron flaps out many a message: Winter’s coming. Who needs Waze? Take that, chickens!
Surely the fellowship of poultry must be strained by the skill-set divide. Ducks and geese and pheasants and pigeons fly. Chickens don’t.
The chef remains unmoved by such distinctions. He roasts goose or squab or capon and serves each with sweet-tart chutney.
Duck, however, resists such typecasting. Its meat is dark red and best rare. Seared and sliced like steak, it serves up many a message: Winter’s coming. Who needs to wander? Take that, chicken!
Prep: 10 minutes; Cook: 28 minutes; Makes: 2 servings
1 duck breast, about 8 ounces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
½ cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut up
1. Score: Rinse and pat dry duck breast. Turn it skin-side up on a cutting board. With a long sharp knife, cut through the skin and fat (but not the meat) in a series of parallel stokes, forming a pattern of small squares or diamonds. Season all over with salt and pepper, rubbing seasonings into the meat.
2. Crisp: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Keep handy a small saucepan for collecting duck fat. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet over medium. When good and hot, settle in the duck, skin-side down (big sizzle), pressing to make sure the skin is flat against the hot surface. Cook until skin is beautifully crisp, about 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes, lift the duck with tongs and pour off the accumulated fat.
3. Roast: Pour off fat again. Turn duck meat-side down in skillet; slide it into the hot oven. Cook until duck reaches 135 degrees inside, about 15 minutes (see note). Set duck on a carving board, uncovered, let rest.
4. Thicken: Set skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, scraping up browned bits, until shallots turn soft, about 1 minute. Pour in wine, and cook until sauce begins to thicken, about 4 minutes. Stir in butter. Pull pan off heat.
5. Serve: Thinly slice duck on the diagonal. Mix juices from carving board into sauce. Pour sauce onto each of two plates; fan duck slices over sauce. Enjoy.
6. Plan: Later, strain reserved duck fat into a small jar, and chill. This will come in handy for crisping potatoes, seasoning chicken and other delicious projects. You’ll see.
Note: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is charged with safeguarding our food (if not our taste buds), recommends cooking all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If you have health concerns about rare meat, skip duck.