Local duck is becoming more available in our markets, not to mention if you know a hunter. I love duck and especially when marinated herbs then glazed with pepper jelly. Susan Spicer introduced this method to me over twenty years ago and it stands up to any new cuisine. This dish is rich, sweet and full of fall. Remember, duck breasts are best served rare to medium rare and let that skin crisp up before you turn it. Veal demi-glace can be found in a concentrated form at specialty spice stores, kitchen stores, and even Harris Tetter. Find a frozen version at Whole Foods Market.
Four 6- to 8-ounce boneless, skin-on duck breasts, any excess fat removed
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 bay leaf, crumbled
For the Pepper Glaze:
1/2 cup prepared veal demi-glace
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons hot pepper jelly, we like
1 tablespoon local unsalted butter
Lightly score the skin side of the duck breasts, but be careful not to go all the way to the meat. Mix together the salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a small bowl and rub this mixture on the skin of the duck breasts. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours or let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
In the meantime, make the glaze. Combine the demi-glace, water, vinegar, and shallot in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by about a third. Remove from the heat and whisk in the pepper jelly and then the butter. Season to taste with salt. If you feel like the sauce is too sweet, add a hair more vinegar, or if it’s too acidic, a bit more jelly. Set aside at room temperature.
Oil the grill racks. Preheat your grill using all burners set on high and with the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.
Duck breasts tend to create flare-ups and a lot of smoke. Be prepared for the flare-ups by adjusting your heat and moving the duck breasts around on your grill. I have found that spritzing the flare-ups with water just seems to move fat to a different location. The smoke is inevitable, and it will drive your neighbors crazy.
Place the duck breasts, skin side down, on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. This will render much of the fat between the skin and the meat and also make the skin crispy. Turn and cook for about 3 more minutes. The duck breasts should yield easily to the touch. For me, duck is better rare or medium-rare, and these times should give you a medium-rare finish. Turn the breasts skin side up, cut off all your burners and your gas, and brush lightly with the pepper jelly glaze. Close the lid for about 2 minutes. Remove the duck breasts to a platter, drizzle with more of the pepper jelly glaze, and pass any additional at the table.
Recipe by Fred Thompson adapted from Grilling with Gas