The duck breasts can be seared a day in advance; the orange segments, fennel and pomegranate glaze can be prepared in advance as well; cover and refrigerate separately. When ready to cook, bring the seared duck to room temperature, then roast in a 350-degree oven for 7 minutes or until medium-rare (135 degrees when measured with an instant-read probe thermometer).
Serve with quinoa or mashed potatoes.
- For the glaze and sauce
- 2/3 cup pomegranate molasses (see TIP)
- 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock or broth, reduced to 1/2 cup
- For the duck and fennel
- 2 medium oranges
- 4 boneless, skin-on duck breasts (about 7 ounces each)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large bulb fennel, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, for garnish (optional)
For the glaze and sauce: Combine the pomegranate molasses and vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and add the honey; mix well. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the mixture has reduced by about half (about 2/3 cup). Remove from the heat.
Transfer half of the glaze (1/3 cup) to a separate small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the reduced stock or broth and stir to combine; keep warm.
For the duck and fennel: To prepare the oranges, use a sharp knife to cut off the top and bottom of both oranges; stand each orange on end. Working vertically around the oranges, one at a time, use a sharp paring or serrated knife to cut away the peel and white pith. Working over a bowl, slice between the membranes to release the orange segments, letting them drop into the bowl. Discard the peel, white pith and membranes (strain and save the juice for another use, if desired). Transfer the segments to a separate small bowl and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use a knife to lightly score the skin on the duck breasts in a crosshatch pattern; do not cut through to the flesh. Season both sides of the breasts with salt and pepper to taste. Place skin side down in the hot skillet. (You may need to use 2 pans or do this in batches.) Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until nicely browned, then turn the breasts over and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on the second side (for medium-rare).
Brush the duck breasts generously on both sides with the reserved 1/3 cup of pomegranate molasses-red wine vinegar glaze (there may be glaze left over); tent loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and stir to coat evenly; reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes (without browning). Season with salt and pepper to taste; add the reserved orange segments. Stir gently until just heated through.
Return the pomegranate glaze-stock/broth mixture to medium-low heat; when it is heated through, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring to combine. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, as needed.
When ready to serve, cut the duck breasts into quarter-inch slices; fan the slices on individual plates and surround them with the fennel and orange sections. Drizzle the sauce over the duck. If desired, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Serve hot or warm.
Adapted from "Matthew Kenney's Big City Cooking: Recipes for a Fast-Paced World," by Matthew Kenney and Joan Schwartz (Chronicle, 2003).
Tested by Jane Black.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.