September 24, 2022
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Every waterfowler who has ever flavored both a perfectly cooked medium-rare duck breast and a well-done duck breast can attest the taste is miles apart. For every degree past medium-rare (135 degrees Fahrenheit), flavor potential drops exponentially. With a sous vide, it is possible to move heat evenly through your birds at a low-and-slow pace, thus ensuring, if all proper steps are followed, you will serve flawless wildfowl for dinner time and time again without fail.
What is a Sous Vide Cooker?
This recipe sounds fancy and complicated, but it’s really not. The short story of a sous vide: A sous vide cooker regulates a warm water bath to an exact decimal point of degree. To use, you drop in a sealed bag of meat and allow that meat to cook at lower-than-normal temps over a longer period of time. But why not just grill over high heat until internal temp reaches desired point? Because that high heat overcooks outer layers in the process. Yes, the middle may be perfect, but the exterior is overdone. Ever see photos of steaks where that perfectly pink middle is encased in gradations of gray? That’s like eating a perfect steak wrapped in newspaper. Our goal is medium-rare from the very middle to the very outer layer.
With a sous vide, for waterfowl where you saved the skin, this means fat slowly renders and that cut of meat is marinating in that wildfowl’s innate flavor, in addition to whatever other ingredients you sealed in with the bird. For skinless cuts of wildfowl, where you perhaps wanted to discard the fat for whatever reason, you can add other ingredients to perhaps curb gamey or fishy flavors. I am a big proponent of some sort of alcohol—whether Chardonnay wine or even a bit of bourbon. If wishing to use liquids, you’ll want to use a chamber vacuum sealer (versus an external sealer). Otherwise, you can indeed use a Ziplock bag—just make sure you squeeze as much air as possible out of bag before adding to a sous vide bath (since air will cause bag to float and you’ll need to weigh it down somehow). And of course, make sure that Ziplock bag is completely sealed so water doesn’t get in.
Yes, you do need a sous vide cooker for this recipe. If you own a chest freezer with game, or even if your refrigerator’s gets stocked with game each year, you owe it to yourself to pick up a sous vide. They are a perfect solution for both cooking medium-rare game as well as tenderizing tougher cuts like legs and thighs. In terms of cost, they range anywhere from a little under a hundred bucks to a few hundred dollars (perhaps more), but I’d argue it’s the warranty that should be a big factor when deciding. This is a piece of equipment that spends all its time operating in water. Should anything happen, you’d want to be able to readily fix or replace. MEAT! offers a lifetime warranty on all their gear, so that brand may be worth checking out.
Lastly, you may notice we are cooking these duck breasts at 110 F and that 110 F is indeed not medium rare. However, once we pull these breasts and pat dry, we are reverse-searing to add a nice crust to the exterior, as we all know a fantastic duck breast should have that perfect caramelized exterior and tender inside for what is called proper “mouthfeel.” The high heat of a reverse sear will raise the duck another 10 degrees or more. Allowing the meat to rest before carving will result in carryover, which means the hot outer layers of the meat will continue to cook the interior. End product: A perfect medium-rare duck breast thanks to sous vide, sear, rest. Any questions or comments, please reach out on Instagram: @WildGameJack
Sous Vide and Reverse-Seared Duck Breast with Blueberry Beurre Blanc Recipe
Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4-5 hours
- Two duck breasts
- Two large cloves garlic, smashed
- One apple, sliced
- 1/4 lemon, juiced
- Chardonnay wine
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Fresh basil, cut chiffonade, for garnish (optional)
Beurre Blanc Ingredients:
- 2 cups Chardonnay wine
- 2 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 lemon juiced
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 pound salted butter, cut into pats
Directions with Sous Vide Cooker:
- Seal duck breasts with marinade ingredients if you have a cryo or chamber vacuum sealer, otherwise place in a bowl and marinate. Let marinate for 3-5 hours
- Sous vide the breasts (while still sealed with marinade) for a half hour at 110 F.
- Remove and pat dry.
- Reverse sear on a 600 F grill, flat top, or skillet for 1 minute per side.
- Allow to rest 5 minutes before carving.
Directions without Sous Vide Cooker:
- Remove duck breasts from marinade and pat dry.
- Pre-heat oven to 400.
- Place breasts in cold, oven-safe skillet and turn heat to medium.
- Flip once first side is seared.
- Sear other side then place in oven for 3-5 minutes, until duck breasts are 125 F internal.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before carving.
Beurre Blanc Directions:
- Add 2 cups wine, 1 cup blueberries, juice from 1/4 lemon, along with the garlic, salt, and black pepper to a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer.
- Once reduced to a third or quarter of original amount, add 1 cup heavy whipping cream.
- Continue to reduce until, again, the amount is a third or a quarter of the original amount.
- Turn off heat.
- Slowly stir in a pound’s worth of pats of butter (ideally left out at room temp an hour before making beurre blanc).
- To serve, either place beurre blanc at bottom of plate or atop carved duck.
- Garnish with fresh basil (optional).