Crispy Duck with Plum and Elderflower Emulsion

Duck breast with plum emulsion

I grew up believing that simple foods are often the best. This minimalist philosophy is perhaps most evident in summer, when the greens are greener and the berries sweeter. I often jest that my recipes are simple because I’m lazy, but in all honestly, it’s because I believe that good ingredients need little embellishment.

Mis en Place for Crispy Duck Breast with Plums

As a marketer, I know that the key to selling more product is to evoke an emotional reaction from your consumer. It’s what drives people to make impulsive purchases that were never planned or part of the budget. While I try to restrain myself from extemporaneous purchases in most of my life, food is one area where I let my emotions run free, and I give free rein of my wallet to my every whim.

Carrots in browned cultured butter

That’s because the most evocative foods are also the most inspirational. This dish for example, is something I came up with, using all the flavors of the moment. Plums are at the peak of their season, green topped baby carrots are sweet and crisp, and the odd baby-melon looking Sour Mexican Gherkins practically leapt off the table and into my shopping bag. St. Germain, or elderflower liqueur, is another ingredient that has been on my mind lately, with its ambrosial lychee-like aroma.

I also happened upon a $5 stick of cultured butter. When I say “cultured” I don’t mean that the butter has had an education in etiquette. This is the European style of making butter, where the cream is fermented first, giving it a wonderful depth of flavor reminiscent of cheese. It’s especially good when it’s browned, and the milk solids have had a chance to caramelize.

Moulard Duck breast with crisp skin

While I’m always excited to be cooking with duck, I recently found Moulard duck breasts, and despite the price, I found myself happily emptying my wallet for this hybrid. It’s a cross between the fatty Pekin duck and the leaner Muscovy. Moulard combines the best traits of both species producing large, relatively lean breasts with a ton of flavor.

Duck breast with plum emulsion

Armed with these inspired ingredients, this dish practically made itself. The skin on the breast is fried in its own fat until the skin forms crisp islands of deliciousness, hovering over the flavorful meat. The carrots are blanched and fried in browned butter, which is then used to baste the duck. The ruby-red sauce consists only of pureed plums with elderflower liqueur, whisked with the browned butter to form an emulsion.

This is all plated with the tart Mexican Gherkins and a variety of fresh plums, which I deliberately scattered about the plate to represent how the dish practically made itself.

Duck with Plum and Elderflower Emulsion

1 pound duck breast trimmed
4 plums of different varieties, pitted, wedged, and chilled
10 Mexican Sour Gherkin cut in half
2 plums, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons St. Germain
1 tablespoon honey
1 tsp kosher salt

2 tablespoons cultured butter (european style)
3 baby carrots trimmed and boiled in salt water until tender but not mushy

Score the skin side of the duck in cross-hatch pattern through the skin and into the layer of fat, this allows the fat to render out faster, which in turn helps to crisp the skin. Since the skin needs to be a dry as possible to ensure it crisps up, pat it dry with paper towels, then generously salt and pepper both sides of the breast. Put a heavy bottomed pan over medium low heat and allow the pan to warm up (but it shouldn’t be too hot). Add the duck breast, skin side down and let it fry undisturbed until the skin is golden brown and crisp (7-10 minutes). Tip the pan and remove excess fat as it renders out.

Flip the duck and cook until it reaches your desired level of doneness (use an instant-read thermometer).
Rare: 125° to 130° F
Medium-Rare: 130° to 140° F
Medium: 140° to 150° F
Medium-Well: 150° to 160° F

Transfer the duck to a plate and let it rest for 10 minutes.

While the duck is resting, make the sauce and the carrots. For the sauce, take the 2 plums you pitted and chopped and add them to a food processor along with the St. Germain, honey and salt. When the plums are completely pureed (there shouldn’t be any bits of skin visible), pour the puree into a small saucepan and cook over medium low heat.

For the carrots, add 2 tablespoons of good butter to a clean pan. Fry the carrots with a pinch of salt until they are tender and slightly caramelized on the edges. Transfer the carrots to a plate. Return the duck breast to the pan you just took the carrots from and baste with the browned butter. Transfer the duck to a cutting board, then pour the remaining butter into plum sauce, and quickly whisk it in.

Slice the duck and arrange the slices onto two plates. Add the carrots, then scatter the gherkins and plums around the duck. Spoon some sauce over everything, then serve immediately.

  • Peter G

    Always an inspiration Marc…your flavour combinations are brilliant!

  • Anonymous

    Oh my goodness- I am sitting at my desk right now drooling. Wish I could have this ready for me at home tonight! I love the flavor combinations, color combinations- all of it. Yum!

  • Inanoyster

    looks so colorful and beautiful!

  • Heather

    This is a really good reminder to stop trying so hard in the kitchen, especially during the summer when there are so many fresh ingredients just waiting to be eaten just as they are.

  • City Share

    That looks fabulous! I have read about cultured butter in a couple of places recently. I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks for such a delicious sounding recipe.

  • Kelly

    I love duck and I love cooking with fresh ingredients. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it!

  • Trissa

    Beautiful plating! I’m pretty much like you with food – I hardly buy any clothes or shoes but my wallet tends to wild for food – I don’t mind shelling out the money for good quality food… although I’ve learned recently that buying things in season makes it cheaper.

  • Salt Water Cleanse

    Yep! I was agreed, I’ll keep in touch to your blog. This blog is so usefully, Thanks for the posted 😉

  • Kelly

    Your photography is wonderful. I’m very fond of crispy duck and look forward to trying this out dish out, so fresh and delicious looking.

  • Denise Dube

    Gorgeous pictures and a wonderful article.

  • Denise

    Oh – and I’ll be making this one!

  • Camille

    Your top picture might be one of the most beautiful photos of food I have ever seen! Bravo on your culinary and photography skills Marc!

  • Muneeba

    Lord help me … I love duck .. it pairs so wonderfully with a fruity sauce. Those baby carrots saute-ing is an unbelievably delicious pic … and overall another winner!

  • Nadia

    I agree with you re simple preparations for fresh ingredients. What a luxurious and vibrant dish. I love the colors and the duck looks gorgeous!

  • we are never full

    that sour gherkin looks gorgeous on that (already beautiful) plate. mmmm, duck. for some reason i never eat duck between april and october. it just is a cold-weather thing to me (which is ridiculous and I need to change). beautiful dish. great colors.

  • Heather Arndt Anderson

    I have been loving elderflower lately, though I just use the cordial from Ikea. :)

    The gherkins are blowing my mind – must find those!

    • Anonymous

      Oooo I’ll have to check that out, St Germain ain’t cheap. Honestly the
      gherkins are not so tasty (really tough skin and mostly seeds), but
      they sure look pretty.

  • Johnandrewwalsh

    I finally tried this recipe last night. My presentation wasn’t as elegant as yours, but WOW! So good. My friends were crazy about it.
    I was relieved when the browned butter darkened the plum sauce – it was looking a little like Pepto Bismol when it came out of the food processor.
    Awesome recipe – thanks!

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  • Diana


  • cha

    Amazing recipes, beautiful pictures. 


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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