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Duck Breasts with Roasted Figs and Balsamic Glaze

While the Chinese are the biggest connoisseurs of duck, this classic combination of duck and figs is more French in style. Vinegar usually works well with fruits, and here you could easily substitute firm plums or peaches, if you prefer. Wine pairing: Serve with a big, fruity red, such as a California Petite Syrah or an Italian Primitivo.

Ingredients:

  • 6 skin-on, boneless duck breasts, about 2 1/4 lb. total
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 ripe Black Mission figs
  • 1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 8 fresh thyme sprigs

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Using a sharp knife, trim away any visible fat from each duck breast to create an even 1/4-inch-thick layer. Score the skin side of each breast, cutting through the skin but not into the flesh, to create a 1/4-inch crosshatch pattern. Generously season the breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Using a paring knife, cut a small cross in the top of each fig. Spread the figs open, season with salt and pepper, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the vinegar over the figs and scatter the thyme sprigs on top. Roast, basting the figs with the vinegar every 4 to 5 minutes, until nicely glazed, 12 to 15 minutes. Keep the figs warm in the oven.

Heat a large fry pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down, and sear until the skin is crisp and golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until lightly brown on the other side, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare, or until done to your liking. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.

Thinly slice the duck breasts on the diagonal. Arrange the slices on a platter, top with the figs and drizzle with the balsamic glaze from the baking sheet. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cooking for Friends, by Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm (Oxmoor House, 2008).