All it took was the expression on my husband’s face when he popped that first slice of rosy, medium-rare duck breast, crusted with deliciously crisp skin, into his mouth. It was identical to the look our daughters flashed when they first tasted ice cream: eye-popping delight coupled with incredulity that something could be so good. In that instant, duck breast supplanted steak as the red-meat treat in our home.
Whether you hew to the lean-is-good camp or the fat-is-good camp, in fact, duck is a winner. Skin-free duck breast has fewer calories than either chicken or turkey breast, and get this—the fat is actually good for you.
As Jennifer McLagan explains in her award-winning book Fat, the reason behind “the French paradox”—the remarkably low incidence of heart disease in a culture that loves animal fats—is likely not so much the red wine we’ve heard plenty about, but a combination of factors that include the consumption of duck and goose fat. Those fats are higher in monounsaturated fat and lower in polyunsaturated fat than their feathered white-meat friends. They’re also stable fats, unlike many vegetable oils. When heated, they don’t break down as easily, and they don’t go rancid as quickly at room temperature. (Rancid fat is rife with free radicals, which are definitely not good for you.)
If your eyes glaze over, like mine, when scientific statistics get trotted out, hear this: You’re not going to find yourself singing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” after a duck breast dinner. I’ve noticed that none of us have the slightest urge to open the fridge later in search of something else to eat, perhaps because duck fulfills that human desire for satiety. It’s good phat.