Sautéed Duck Breast with Watercress Salad

If pork is the other white meat, duck is the other red meat. And it has something red meat can never touch: crispy skin.

It has the crispy skin of chicken and meatiness of red meat. It’s the Frankenstein of the meat world! Some may cry fowl at my reference [and my poultry puns], but I didn’t want to write the word “monster,” as in “Frankenstein’s monster,” in a cookbook. [Now look what you made me do.]

A note on the serving size: duck breasts are around eight ounces apiece, which makes them large enough to split for a lighter meal, as my wife and I often do. If I’m still hungry (or even if I’m not), I’ll have some extra Crème Fraîche Cheesecake or Chocolate Almond Cake.

2 duck breasts, roughly 8 ounces each
Kosher salt, as needed
1 tablespoon (10 g) olive oil
1 teaspoon (20 g) lemon juice
3 cups (100 g) watercress

Score the fat on the duck breast. Use a sharp knife and slice the fat every 1⁄2 inch. Be careful not to cut into the flesh. We’re just scoring the fat so it renders better. Salt both sides of the duck.

Set a medium skillet over medium heat. Lay the duck breasts in the pan skin-side down and lower the heat to medium-low. Tilt the pan and spoon the fat out as it renders. I recommend saving this fat. I use it for sautéing spinach for breakfast. It’s delightfully flavorful.

Cook for 16 to 18 minutes. If the skin browns too quickly, reduce the heat to low. Flip the breasts over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more.

If you prefer the precision of a thermometer—and there is no shame in that!—insert a probe thermometer and stop cooking when it reaches 135 ̊F (58 ̊F). Make sure to insert through the end of the breast to ensure you take the temperature of the center of the meat, not the edge.

For the salad
Whisk together oil, vinegar, and salt in the base of a large bowl. Cut the watercress into 2- to 3-inch-long pieces and add to the bowl. Toss to combine. There is not much dressing here, and that’s on purpose. I like watercress with little to no dressing, but feel free to add more if you wish.

To complete
Slice the duck breast into 3⁄4-inch-wide pieces. You could go across the breast, as I’ve done in this photo, or you could go lengthwise for a more dramatic preparation. Serve with dressed watercress.