Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Grilled Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Zinfandel Sauce
Grilled Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Zinfandel Sauce

Grilled Duck Breasts with Dried Cherry-Zinfandel Sauce

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 4
This recipe pairs dried cherries with duck, but other dried fruits would work equally well in a wine-based sauce served with this game bird, with quail or pheasant, or with pork or smoked ham. Instead of the dried cherries with Zinfandel used here, try dried cranberries with Pinot Noir, dried peaches or apricots with Riesling or Gewürztraminer, dried pears with Sauvignon Blanc, or dried apples with Chardonnay, varying spices and herbs as you wish.


For the spice rub:

  • 1 Tbs. ground ginger
  • 1 Tbs. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 boneless, skin-on duck breast halves

For the sauce:

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup Zinfandel or other full-bodied dry
      red wine
  • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries
  • 1 Tbs. dark soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. dark corn syrup
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbs. wine
      or water


Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for direct grilling over medium heat.

To make the spice rub, in a small bowl, mix together the ginger, five-spice powder, white pepper and salt. Sprinkle generously on both sides of the duck breasts and rub in.

To make the sauce, in a saucepan combine the stock, wine, dried cherries, soy sauce and corn syrup. Cook over high heat, stirring often, until reduced by about half, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, to thicken the sauce. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the duck breasts, skin side down, on the grill, directly over medium heat. Cover the grill and cook until the duck is well browned on the bottom side, 7 to 10 minutes, checking occasionally for flare-ups and moving the duck to a cooler part of the grill if needed. Turn and grill for 5 minutes more. Check for doneness by cutting into a breast or testing with an instant-read thermometer. Duck breasts should be cooked medium-rare to medium, still pink at the center, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 135° to 140°F. Continue to cook as needed.

Transfer to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, slice each duck breast on the diagonal and spoon the sauce over the slices. Serves 4.

Note: The spice rub in this recipe is also delicious with chicken or pork.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Grilling, by Denis Kelly (Simon & Schuster, 2002).