2000s Recipes + Menus

Duck Breast Steaks with Fresh Mango Relish

  • Active time:15 min
  • Start to finish:30 min
June 2009
Love red meat but tired of beef? Try duck breasts instead: They are as easy to cook as chicken, and you’ll be rewarded with a quick, out-of-the-ordinary main plus a bonus: the rendered fat, prized by the French, that you can save (even freeze) and use to sauté vegetables, giving them that je-ne-sais-quoi bistro flavor. And although there’s a good reason why duck à l’orange is a classic—it’s delicious—it’s June, for goodness’ sake, and really good mangoes like the Ataulfo are nearing their peak; just chop them and spike with ginger, lime, and chile to make a fast and fresh relish. It couldn’t be simpler.

Learn how our executive food editor developed this recipe.
  • 2 (3/4- to 1-lb) Moulard duck breast halves (see cooks’ note, below)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 lb ripe mangoes, preferably Ataulfo or Champagne
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh hot chile (optional)
  • Pat duck dry. Score skin through fat with a sharp paring knife, in a crosshatch pattern, at 1/2-inch intervals. Rub all over with sea salt
  • Put duck, skin side down, in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook until skin is well browned, 8 to 10 minutes (duck will give off a significant amount of fat).
  • Carefully turn duck skin side up (it will spatter) and cook, covered, over medium-low heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 135ºF for medium-rare, 6 to 9 minutes.
  • While duck is cooking, cut off and chop flesh from mangoes, discarding skin, and stir together with scallion, lime juice, ginger, chile (if using), and salt to taste.
  • Transfer duck with tongs to a cutting board (reserve remaining fat for another use ) and let rest 5 minutes. Cut crosswise into thin slices and serve with mango relish.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Moulard duck breasts (a.k.a magret duck breasts, available at some supermarkets and specialty foods shops and by mail order from D’Artagnan) have the most steaklike flavor, but milder Pekin duck breasts, which have less fat and are smaller—at about 8 ounces per breast half, you’ll need 4 to serve 4—will also work. One readily available brand, Maple Leaf Farms, has been treated with a salt solution, which makes for a slightly different texture. Cook the Pekin duck breasts about 7 to 8 minutes skin side down and about 5 to 7 minutes skin side up.
  • The USDA recommends taking duck breasts to an internal temperature of 165°F, but since we prefer the meat medium-rare, we cook it to 135°F. To our taste, that yields the perfect degree of doneness.
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