Cookbook Profile

Grilled Duck Paillards


Serves 4

Karen and Dick like their duck breast grilled or pan-seared to medium-rare (a medium temperature is also acceptable); medium well to well done produces a dry, unappetizing dish. If that's the way you prefer your meat, perhaps duck is not for you. For a larger Muscovy duck breast, score the skin by using a sharp knife and cutting diagonal slashes through the skin (but do not cut into the duck meat). This allows the fat to cook off and the skin to crisp. Grill until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 145 degrees F for medium rare, about 7 minutes. To serve the larger Muscovy duck breast, slice it about 1/4 inch thick just before serving.

Here's a lesson on making duck (or other wild game bird) breasts into a paillard, a French term for a boneless piece of meat that has been flattened to be of a uniform thickness. The easiest way we've found to do this is to use the rim of a saucer. Simply pound the breast, starting in the middle and working your way out to the sides, until the meat is of an even 1/2- to 1-inch thickness. On a hot grill or in a grill pan over high heat, a paillard will take a total cooking time of 10 minutes per inch of thickness. For a 1/2-inch-thick paillard, grill it 2-1/2 minutes per side or 5 minutes total cooking time. If the skin is on the breast meat, cook the skin side an additional 1 to 2 minutes to get it nice and crispy.

While you are grilling duck, try these sides on the grill, too: Grilled Green Onions and Red Onion Slices, Char-Grilled Baby Summer Squash, and Grilled Tomatoes (see recipes in book).

Four 4- to 5-ounce boneless, skinless wild or domestic duck breasts,
          flattened to about 3/4 inch thick (see headnote)
1/2 cup red wine
8 juniper berries
4 sprigs each fresh thyme and oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place duck breasts in a sealable plastic bag and add the wine, juniper berries, and herb sprigs. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill.

3. Remove the duck from the bag and dispose of the marinade. Pat the duck dry, lightly coat with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place on the grill directly over the hot fire. Grill 3 to 3-1/2 minutes per side for medium-rare, 140 to 145 degrees F measured by an instant-read meat thermometer in the thickest part.


Crowning Glories

Try a nice sauce to serve on the side or to pool on the plate with your duck breasts:

Raspberry and Blood Orange Sauce (recipe below)
Mustard Cornichon Beurre Blanc (recipe below)
Pistachio-Pomegranate Sauce (recipe below)


Pistachio-Pomegranate Sauce

We wish we could reach out from the pages of this book and give you a taste of this sauce, but you'll have to make it yourself (or come to one of our cooking classes) to sample it. We looooooove this on grilled, rotisseried, or smoked lamb-especially rack of lamb. It's also good with grilled pork, duck, or chicken. In the Kansas City area, we find the pomegranate molasses at Asian and Indian markets, the bottled pomegranate juice at Whole Foods Market or health food stores, and grenadine at the liquor store. Makes about 2 cups.

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, plus chopped pistachios for garnish
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons port or dry sherry
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Grenadine for color
Fine kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Divide the pistachios in half. Grind half in a food processor and set aside. Combine the remaining whole pistachios and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat and stir in the brown sugar, honey, port, and pomegranate molasses and juice. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, then add the lemon juice and blend in the ground pistachios. Stir in the whole steamed pistachios. Add a few drops of grenadine until you have a pleasing rosy color. Season with salt and pepper.

3. To serve, nap the food with the sauce and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.


Mustard Cornichon Beurre Blanc

Somewhere between the classic, piquant Sauce Gribiche and the mellower Bearnaise, this easy sauce offers a jolt of flavor, perfect with grilled steaks, lamb, or fish. Cornichons, small 2-inch-long pickles usually served with pates, are available in small jars at better grocery stores. They add wonderful texture and taste. This is adapted from a recipe by Stuart Cameron, chef at the Napa Valley Grille in Providence, Rhode Island. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup tarragon or white wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
12 cornichons, finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
Fine kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small bowl, mix the softened butter and mustard together. Cover and chill for 15 minutes.

2. Combine the wine, vinegar, and shallot in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and let continue to boil until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes.

3. Reduce the heat to low and whisk in a tablespoonful of the butter mixture at a time, whisking until the butter has been incorporated into the sauce. Whisk in the tarragon, cornichons, and heavy cream. Taste for salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Raspberry and Blood Orange Sauce

We love this on grilled chicken breasts, fish fillets or steaks, lamb chops, or pork tenderloin. Blood orange juice is sometimes available bottled at health food stores. If you can't find them, substitute a combination of orange and lemon juice. Makes about 1/2 cup.

2/3 cup blood orange juice (from 10 to 12 blood oranges) or a combination of
          orange juice and lemon juice (from 6 to 7 large oranges and 2 lemons)
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Fine kosher or sea salt and white pepper to taste

1. In a small, heavy saucepan over high heat, bring the orange juice and vinegar to a boil and let continue to boil until reduced to a syrupy liquid, about 8 minutes.

2. Quickly whisk in the butter until melted. Remove from the heat and season with salt and white pepper. Use immediately.


Other Variations:

Grilled Duck Breast Paillard with Dried Sweet Cherry-Port Sauce: Score the skin of 4 duck breasts pounded into 1-inch-thick paillards and sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon Spicy Red Hot Lemon Pepper Rub. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup beef broth, 1/4 cup port, 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce by half, stirring often. Remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water. Whisk, return to medium heat to thicken, then set aside. Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grill. Grill the duck breasts, skin side down, until the skin is browned, about 7 minutes. Turn and grill 5 more minutes. For medium-rare, the duck should register 140 to 145 degrees F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast. Slice on the diagonal and spoon the warm sauce over the meat.

Grilled Duck Breast Salad: This is a favorite at the Adlers' house. The basic components for salad for two are 1 cup shredded duck meat, 1 cup fresh fruit such as orange wedges or berries, 1/2 cup crumbled Maytag blue cheese, 2 tablespoons slivered red onion, 3 cups lettuce, and 2 or 3 tablespoons of a sweet and tangy dressing like a Balsamic Thyme Vinaigrette or a homemade or store-bought poppyseed dressing. Toss it all together to lightly coat and serve with crusty bread (or a duck sandwich on the side)!


Buy the Book!


The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue
by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig
Harvard Common Press
$32.95 cloth 1-55832-296-5
$18.95 paper 1-55832-297-3
Recipe reprinted by permission.


The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue



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This page created May 2005