Seared Five-Spice Duck Breasts with Rhubarb Compote

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

Chinese five-spice powder, a blend of warm, fragrant spices, seasons meaty duck breasts, giving them an exotic, intriguing flavor. A cinnamon-spiced sweet and tart rhubarb compote made with fresh orange juice and brown sugar pairs well with the rich, rosy duck meat.


  • 4 boneless duck breast halves, each about 7 oz.
  • 1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large orange
  • 4 or 5 rhubarb stalks, about 10 oz. total, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • One 3-inch piece cinnamon stick


Using a sharp, thin-bladed knife, score the skin of each duck breast half in a crosshatch pattern. In a small bowl, stir together the five-spice powder, salt and pepper and season the duck breasts on both sides with the mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Finely grate the zest from the orange, then squeeze 1/2 cup orange juice, adding water to supplement, if needed. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, combine the orange zest, orange juice, rhubarb, brown sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb is just tender, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. When the rhubarb is ready, using a slotted spoon, transfer it to a heatproof bowl and nest the bowl in the ice water bath. Increase the heat to high and boil the juices in the pan until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Pour the juices over the rhubarb, discard the cinnamon and stir gently. Let cool.

Place the duck breasts, skin side down, in a very large fry pan. Cook over medium-high heat until the skin is golden brown and the duck has rendered a good amount of fat, about 7 minutes. Transfer the duck to a large plate and pour off the fat from the pan. Return the pan to medium-high heat, then return the duck, skin side up, to the pan. Cook until the undersides are nicely browned, about 7 minutes more for medium-rare or until done to your liking.

Transfer the duck to a carving board and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut each breast half across the grain into slices about 1/2 inch thick and arrange on warmed dinner plates. Spoon some of the compote onto each plate and pass the remaining compote at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Chicken, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2008).

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