Seared Pomegranate Duck Breast Over Wilted Greens with Roquefort

I love this recipe because you can achieve a decadently sexy final dish in under 30 minutes. Most people generally don't cook duck breast because they are unfamiliar and intimidated, as it is not as common-place as chicken. However, what they don't know is that duck breast is easier to cook because it can be served at varying degrees of temperature. I, myself, love a perfectly golden seared medium-rare duck breast. It is both impressive and incredibly flavorful, and in this recipe, the natural fat in the breast is rendered to add luxurious flavor to the sautéed onions and wilted spinach. So, follow this quick and easy recipe to conquer succulently swoon-worthy duck breast that will leave you positively speechless.
duck breast on a bed of wilted greens

I remember first cooking duck breast when I was in culinary school in NYC. My instructors were all French, and it seemed like duck was ingrained in their heritage and upbringing. I must admit, I too was intimidated at first, as I was unsure of what to do with the generous fat cap on top and wondering if I was cooking the breast long enough for it to be safe to eat. However, after a few attempts, I realized that this fowl is not daunting at all. On the contrary, it is downright delicious!

With a thick French accent, my instructor used to say, “Sarah, you heavily season both sides…no?”. I quickly learned that with the simplicity of salt and pepper, duck does not require any additional seasonings, as it is so flavorful on its own. Like so many other French principles, I too quickly adopted an affinity for this luxurious fowl. I wondered why it had been missing from my culinary repertoire for so many years?!

This recipe’s beauty focuses on the richness of the duck, which carries over to all parts of the recipe, and satiates all parts of the palate without heavy carbohydrates or grains. All parts of the duck are utilized, from the crispy skin to medium-rare flesh to the flavorful fat incorporated into the vegetables. This recipe encourages you to eat this indulgent fowl and healthy fat in moderation, as it is accompanied by healthy vegetables and powerful antioxidants from the pomegranates. Duck is high in protein and nutrient-dense. It is actually higher in iron than red meat with a lower level of saturated fat. In short, this recipe focuses on that French palate that is high in rich flavor and deliciousness with the purest of ingredients. Your tastebuds will not be lusting after something else because you just ate a flavorless, calorically deficient meal. Instead, you will be smiley and satisfied.

Ingredients are below

ingredients for pan seared duck breast with kale: kale, butter, white wine, red onion, duck breast, pomegranate and roquefort cheese

Get your mise en place together

  • Mise en place in French means, “everything in its place”.
  • Before the cooking process begins, this is when you want to make sure all your vegetables are chopped and your ingredients are properly broken-down.
  • Thinly slice the red onion.
  • Chop the Lacinato kale.
  • De-seed the pomegranate.
pomegranate seeds, kale and red onion sliced

So, let’s break it down…how to prepare the duck breast before searing? 

Drying it Out:

  • Fortunately, duck breasts are often sold, individually packaged in most organic grocery stores.
  • This fact also adds ease to the preparation of this dish because:
  • One duck breast in a perfect portion-controlled amount of protein for two people. So, this recipe is perfect for making for your extra special honey or someone special.
  • I often buy several duck breasts and store them in my freezer. It is such an easy protein to thaw overnight…and voila…superstar dinner for two the next day.
  • The duck often comes in airtight sealed plastic packaging that is always filled with some blood excess liquid.
  • Take the breast out of this liquid and properly dry it on paper towels to remove all excess moisture. This will create the crispiest skin! Properly drying out your fowl will make a HUGE difference in the cooking process to achieve that perfect golden-brown skin.
duck breast being patted dry with kitchen towel

Scoring the skin

  • Duck has a very generous fat cap under the skin. When this skin is engaged directly with the heat source, it tends to shrink and pucker up around the breast.
  • Take a sharp knife and score the skin in a crosshatch formation (making sure not to puncture the actual flesh of the duck). This helps to create a more even surface for the duck and prevents the skin from puckering.
a duck breast being scored with a knife

Season with salt and pepper

  • Fortunately, duck has an exquisite natural flavor and does not need fancy seasonings to make it delicious.
  • Simplicity is key; season both sides of the breast generously with salt and pepper.
  • The salt acts as a cooking agent, helping break down the proteins and bring out the duck’s natural sweetness.
  • Because the skin is so thick with the fat cap, make sure that salt gets into all the scored skin creases.
  • The pepper adds a nice spiked punch. However, if you prefer to have a cleaner and non-speckled breast that is less spicy, you can omit the pepper and season the vegetables after they’ve been cooked.

Usually, for all proteins, we want to add them to a hot pan with hot oil. However, duck is different. 

  • As discussed above, duck has such a generous fat cap under the skin that no additional oil is needed to sear the skin.
  • Place the duck skin-side down in a cold pan and turn the heat to moderate.
  • We place the duck in a cold pan, rather than hot, as we want the fat under the skin to slowly come up to temperature with the sauté pan, drawing out or rendering”melting” some of the fat.
  • This rendering of the fat provides us enough natural fat to cook the duck breast and provides us a luxurious tasting base for our sautéed onions and kale.
  • Do not touch the breast and allow it to cook until a golden brown color is achieved for about 4-6 minutes.
duck breast in a pan ready to be seared
  • lift the duck breast with your tongs to see if that golden brown skin has been achieved.
raw duck breast in tongs ready to go in a hot pan

Why do we add 1 ½ tablespoons of butter to the pan while the duck is cooking on the second side? 

  • Reduce the heat to low and cook the duck breast on the second side and add the butter.
  • While the duck is cooking on the second side, the butter is melted in the pan, and brown butter is achieved. Brown butter is essentially pure golden browned fat, cooked long enough to where the butter’s milk solids have burned off, leaving just the fat to caramelize perfectly.
  • This brown butter is basted over the duck’s skin as it’s cooking on this second side to add flavor to the breast as it cooks. Every time your spoon bastes the hot liquid over the protein, that hot liquid is seeping into the flesh, helping to cook the protein from the inside out.
  • This basting technique is a “pro chef” skill that should NOT be missed! You can thank me later.

How do we know when the duck breast is cooked to medium-rare?

  • You should be basting the duck with butter and cooking it on low on this second side for 7-8 minutes until the breast is firm when touching but still has some spring.
  • Even though I give you the timed amount above, generally, though, you want to use your senses to touch and feel the breast to achieve that perfect medium-rare. 
  • The top of the duck should be firm, but it should still have some spring when pressed. 
  • If you are still uncomfortable identifying this stage, you can insert a thermometer, and a perfect medium-rare is around 135 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • However, please note that while the duck is resting, the duck’s internal temperature will rise around 9 degrees. Thus, you should take the duck out of the pan and allow it to rest around 126 degrees Fahrenheit to reach the perfect 135 degrees after resting!
duck breast in tongs
  • Below is the duck that has been glazed with butter and has cooked for the additional 7-8 minutes on low.

Rest your duck breast before slicing

  • Remove the duck from the pan and rest for 8-10 minutes while completing the other elements.
  • After your duck breast has been basted and cooked on its second side, it is important to allow the meat to rest before slicing into it.
    • 1) It gives you time to make the other elements of the dish.
    • 2) You want to allow the protein to sit and settle before slicing into it. By doing this, the natural juices will stay inside the duck breast instead of exuding out onto the cutting board.
duck breast in a pan with juices oozing out of it

Using the rendered duck fat to flavor and sauté the onions and kale

  • The duck fat and caramelized proteins left in the pan are the perfect base to start sautéing the onions.
  • Return the heat of the pan to moderate and add the sliced onions. Cook until translucent in the rendered duck fat, about 3-4 minutes.
sliced red onions in a pan
  • At this point, you want to add the kale and the white wine. Cook for around 2 minutes until the kale is wilted and the wine has been absorbed into the vegetables. The wine is used for two reasons:
    • 1) It is used to deglaze the pan. You want to add the wine and scrape the bottom of the sauté pan with a wooden spoon. This will lift the caramelized brown solids stuck to the bottom of the pan. Think of these tiny brown bits as “little pops of flavor” that are now lifted and incorporated into the vegetables. The wine also adds additional flavor to the vegetables.
    • 2) The moisture from the wine helps wilt and cook down the large amount of kale.
chopped kale and red onion in a pan

Slicing the duck and adding the pomegranate seeds and Roquefort

  • Take the onions and kale off the heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • At this point, the duck has rested long enough where you can go ahead and slice it into thin pieces.
  • I like to add the pomegranate seeds and crumbled Roquefort to individual plates because I want the pomegranates to retain their fresh pop and beautiful burst of flavor. When pomegranate seeds are cooked (if we added these into the sauté pan with the onions and kale), they would not be as crunchy or vibrant.
  • These tiny pops of color are the real showstopper in this dish, so we want to retain their beautiful raw quality as much as possible. I also love using pomegranates because they are loaded with beneficial antioxidants.
  • Similarly, the Roquefort would melt into the sauteed vegetables if we added it directly to the pan. Rather, it is best to place crumbled pieces on individual plates.
  • Slice the duck breast across the grain and serve on a bed of the wilted onions and spinach. Adorn each plate with pomegranate seeds and crumbled Roquefort.
Sliced duck breast on a bed of green leaves

When you use rich ingredients that satisfy all parts of the palate, you find yourself not even needing a carbohydrate.

  • Following the path of my French instructors from culinary school, I find myself having a European diet. I lust after rich and flavorful food and eat in moderation, rather than depriving myself.
  • This recipe utilizes two majorly rich and decadent ingredients: the duck breast and the Roquefort.
  • We utilize all parts of the duck in this recipe to bring flavor and richness to the whole dish. The skin is crispy, and the flesh is tender and juicy red medium-rate. The sensually creamy and decadent Roquefort complements the sautéed onions and kale and melts into the warm vegetables. The crunchy pops of pomegranate seeds provide us the needed crunch and sweetness to offset the vegetables’ savory and soft flavors.
  • Don’t forget; everything is made under thirty minutes…so it’s truly the whole package!

Variations

  • Substitute the Roquefort for:
    • Gorgonzola, Maytag, Stilton, Cambozola, Cabrales, Danish Blue
  • Substitute the kale for:
    • Swiss Chard, Napa Cabbage, Curly Kale

Suggested Meal Pairings

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duck breast on a bed of wilted greens

Seared Pomegranate Duck Over Wilted Greens with Roquefort

Duck breast doesn't have to be daunting. You can create this elegant and mouthwatering fowl with simple ingredients in under 30 minutes! The duck breast is cooked to perfection, creating a crispy golden skin and tender medium-rare flesh. It is paired with sauteed onions and kale and accented by the pop of colorful and sweet pomegranate seeds and decadently creamy Roquefort. This dish is so rich and flavorful that you will not even need carbohydrates to make your dinner complete.
Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 28 mins
Course Chicken and Poultry
Cuisine French
Servings 2 people
Calories 462 kcal

Equipment

  • Large Sauté Pan
  • Tongs
  • Large Basting Spoon
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Meat Thermometer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 duck breast
  • 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 ½ cups Lacinato kale, chopped
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 1 pomegranate, de-seeded
  • 3 tablespoons Roquefort, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Remove the duck breast from the packaging and dry on paper towels to remove all excess moisture.
  • With a sharp knife, lightly score the skin in a crosshatch formation. (This will keep the breast from puckering up when seared).
  • Season both sides generously with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large sauté pan over moderate heat and place the duck breast skin-side down into the pan. Do not touch the breast and allow it to cook until a golden brown color is achieved for about 4-6 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cook the duck breast on the second side and add the butter. Gently spoon the browned butter over the breast and cook for 7-8 minutes, until the breast is firm when touching but still has some spring.
  • Remove the duck from the pan and rest for 8-10 minutes while completing the other elements.
  • Return the heat of the pan to moderate and add the sliced onions. Cook until translucent in the rendered duck fat, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the kale and white wine to the pan and continue cooking for around 2 minutes until the kale is wilted and the wine has been absorbed into the vegetables.
  • Shut off the heat, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Slice the duck breast across the grain and serve on a bed of the wilted onions and spinach. Adorn each plate with pomegranate seeds and crumbled Roquefort.

Notes

Notes:
  • Whenever you cook a protein, remember that the internal temperature will always go up around 9 degrees as it is resting.
  • Thus, it is better to pull your duck breast out of the pan earlier rather than later and allow it to continue to cook as it is resting. A perfect medium-rare duck breast has an internal temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Resting allows for all the natural juices of the duck to settle inside. If you slice the duck too early and don’t leave ample room for resting, all of these juices will exude out onto the cutting board.

Nutrition

Calories: 462kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 31gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 484mgPotassium: 849mgFiber: 6gSugar: 21gVitamin A: 3177IUVitamin C: 55mgCalcium: 215mgIron: 6mg
Keyword Chicken and Poultry, Duck, duck recipes, seared duck recipe

 

 

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About Sarah
Sarah blair

Adding a generous dose of enthusiasm, excitement, and creativity to the culinary world, Sarah began her career at the French Culinary Institute in NYC. Sarah has worked for the past decade as a Culinary Producer and Food Stylist.

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