Duck Breast au Poivre with Steel-Cut Oats

For the duck:

  • 4 boneless half breasts of duck, about 6 to 8 ounces each
  • 1/4 cup cracked black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons Port
  • 1/2 cup brown chicken stock or veal stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter

1. Peel the skin off the duck meat and put it in a large skillet over moderate heat to render some of the fat. Put the cracked pepper on a plate and press the meat into the peppercorns to coat both sides. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.

When the duck skin has rendered about 3 or 4 tablespoons of fat, remove the skin and discard it, but reserve the duck fat, which you will use to cook the duck breasts.

2. In a saucepan, combine the red wine, 1/4 cup Port and stock. Boil the mixture until it reduces in volume to about 3 tablespoons. Swirl in the butter and keep the sauce warm.

3. Heat the duck fat in a sauté pan and sear the breasts over high heat for two to three minutes on each side. Remove the duck from the pan and let it stand for two minutes. Meanwhile pour off the fat and deglaze the pan with the remaining 3 tablespoons of Port.

When this has reduced to 1 tablespoon, add it to the sauce. Slice the breasts crosswise about 1/3 inch thick. Serve the slices of duck breast over a ladleful of the oats and moisten with a spoonful of the sauce. Serves 4.

For the steel-cut oats:

  • 4 or more cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Combine 4 cups of broth with the oats in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer gently for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. The finished mixture should be soft and creamy, with a slightly chewy character. If it becomes stiff and dry, add more broth, or even water.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and blend in the cheese. Pass additional grated cheese at the table, if you wish. The oats may also be kept warm over hot water, and can be reheated.

On reheating, you may need to add up to 1 cup more broth or water to keep a creamy consistency.

Note: You must use old-fashioned steel-cut oats, NOT rolled oats. These are usually labeled “Irish Oatmeal”. such as John McCann’s, and can be found in health food stores.