I am always staggered when we journey through France and Italy at the variety and quality of the meat the local supermarkets carry in contrast to the picture I find in my part of the UK. We were driving along the Rhone on the way to our Gité and called into the local supermarket to get some basic provisions and found some stunning duck breasts at the butcher’s counter. In fact these were “magret de canard” and although magret is a duck’s breast not all duck breasts are magret!! Magret de Canard is duck breast from the Mulard breed of ducks which are a cross between the White Pekin and the Muscovy duck.
These ducks have a richer and deeper flavour than the ‘normal’ duck breasts I can usually find in the UK and if anything they are a little more fatty too – but boy do they cook well! As they have a thicker layer of fat than other duck breasts I like to cook them a little slower to allow the fat a little more time to render. For this reason I cook them straight from the fridge to give a little more time before the core heats up!
For a long time my ‘go to’ recipe for duck breast has been based on the Smoked Duck Breast recipe on the UK BGE site. It works really well as described there using cherry wood as a smoking agent – but this time we were using a little oak as that is the staple firewood locally. So some scraps of oak from the wood pile were soaked in water for half an hour or so and the Big Green Egg set up for indirect cooking with the platesetter in the ‘legs up’ position topped with the cast iron grill. I like to do the cooking for this recipe with a dome temperature of no more than 110C and most of this cook was done at a dome temperature of around 100C – which gave a grill top temperature of around 120-130C.
Whilst the BGE came up to temperature the 2 magret were prepared, patting them dry with a paper towel then scoring the skin with a sharp knife. They were then dusted with salt and pepper on both sides and the zest of an orange over the skin. Once the BGE was up to temperature the platesetter and grill were removed and the wet oak added and then the platesetter and grill replaced. Once the initial (bitter) smoke from the oak had died away the 2 magret were put on the grill, skin side up. An indwelling temperature probe was placed in one of the pieces and the lid was closed so the EGG could do its magic for the next 45 minutes or so! Technically, as magret is ‘fowl’ the recommended minimum internal temperature at which to serve is 74C – and to get that I would remove them from the Egg at 69C and let them stand for 10 minutes. As we are cooking slowly and holding the temperature for longer periods of time I am happy to serve this dish for myself at a slightly lower temperature especially considering that locally, magret is often cooked and served rare to medium rare in the same way as steak. We took it from the grill at 58C which is more than medium anyway! Whilst the duck was resting we picked some figs from the tree in the garden and put them on the grill to warm through.
Once rested, the magret was sliced, sprinkled with a little more salt, and served on the cutting board with the warmed figs. Some sauted potatoes and a green salad finished off proceedings beautifully!
We had actually bought 3 magret, but miss-calculated slightly, as only 2 would fit on the grill and in reality these 2 were plenty for 6 people. The third prepared magret was popped onto the grill as we were eating and cooked in the same way and then taken off and allowed to cool before being refrigerated. The next day it was sliced for lunch and, if it were possible, actually seemed even better than the night before! Which ever way you do this dish – you are on to a winner! ………………..Bon appetite!
Slow roasted smoked duck breast
Slow cooked Magret de Canard / large duck breast with orange zest and warm figs
- 2 Magret de Canard / large duck breast
- Salt and pepper
- Zest of an orange
- Step 1 Soak some wood chips, ideally cherry but oak work well in water
- Step 2 Set up the Big Green Egg for indirect cooking with the platesetter in the ‘legs up’ position topped with the cast iron grill.
- Step 3 Prepare the magret / large duck breast by drying with a paper towel then scoring the skin with a sharp knife.
- Step 4 Dust all over with salt and add the zest of an orange over the skin.
- Step 5 Once the BGE had a steady dome temperature of 100C remove the platesetter and grill and add the wet wood chips and then replace the platesetter and the grill.
- Step 6 Place the magret / large duck breast on the grill skin side up and leave for around 45 minutes.
- Step 7 If you intend to serve at 74C then remove from the EGG at 69C and let them stand for 10 mins. If you would be happier serving it pink then remove from the grill at between 57-60C. Whilst the duck is resting put some figs on to the grill to warm through.
- Step 8 If you are going to serve hot, then once rested, slice the magret, sprinkle with a little more salt, and serve on a cutting board with the warmed figs. If serving cold (pictured at the top of the page), after 10 minutes resting wrapped in foil, allow to cool and place in the fridge
- Step 9 Serve hot or cold with some sautéed potatoes and a green salad