Sautéed Duck Breast with Arugula Salad and Cracklings

Sautéed Duck Breast with Arugula Salad and Cracklings  (Wendy Goodfriend)

"At the beginning of my career, and for many years afterward, there were only a couple of ways of cooking duck: roasted whole or in a stew. In the 1970s, nouvelle cuisine brought us boneless breast of duck sautéed or grilled and served rare, with or without a sauce. Conventionally, the skin is scored and the breast is sautéed skin side down until a great deal of fat is rendered and the skin is richly browned and caramelized. The meat will be rare and juicy, but the skin will still be quite fatty and somewhat soft inside, and most people leave it on their plates. In my version of this dish, I remove the skin from the breasts, cut it into 3/4-inch pieces, and cook it into crispy cracklings. You can do this step ahead and enjoy the extra cracklings with your aperitifs. (The fat rendered when cooking the skin is delicious in pâtés, or use it for sautéing potatoes.)

"Then the duck breasts are sautéed at the last moment and served with an arugula salad sprinkled with the cracklings." --Jacques Pépin

Recipe: Sautéed Duck Breast with Arugula Salad and Cracklings

Serves 4


  • 4 boneless duck breasts(about 6 ounces each)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame or hazelnut oil
  • 8 cups (loosely packed) arugula
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts (see Note below)


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons water


For the Cracklings

  1. Remove the skin of the duck breasts by pulling it off and slicing between the skin and the meat with a sharp knife. Cover and refrigerate the breasts.
  2. Cut the duck skin into 3/4-inch pieces.
  3. Put the pieces of skin in a saucepan with the salt and 3 cups water, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until all the water is evaporated and the pieces of skin are sizzling in the rendered fat. Then continue frying the skin in the fat until it is brown and crispy, about 10 minutes.
  4. Drain in a colander, reserving the fat for another use.
  5. You need about 1 cup cracklings to serve with the duck; enjoy the rest with aperitifs.
  6. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees.

For the Salad

  • Mix together the garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, and both oils in a large bowl and set aside.

For the Duck

  1. Heat the butter in a skillet until it is foaming. Sprinkle the duck breasts with the salt and pepper, add to the pan, and sauté over medium-high heat for 21/2 to 3 minutes per side for rare meat. Transfer the duck to a plate and set in the oven to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, deglaze the pan with the wine and water, mixing for a few minutes to melt and incorporate the solidified juices. Remove from the heat.

To Assemble

  1. Reheat the cracklings in the microwave oven for about 45 seconds.
  2. Toss the arugula with the dressing in the bowl and divide the salad among four plates. Place a duck breast on top of the salad on each plate and pour the deglazed juices on top. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts and cracklings and serve.

Note: To toast the hazelnuts, scatter them on a baking sheet and toast in a 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Rub off the skins after toasting.

Recipes from Heart & Soul in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin. Copyright © 2015 by Jacques Pépin. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.