Duck Breasts with Port Sauce and Wild Mushroom Polenta



Published by Chronicle

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

When I discovered boneless duck breasts in England years ago, they became my favorite special occasion dish, and this way of cooking them gets rid of almost all the fat! Wait till you see how much you pour off. A word of warning though: Open all the windows as you sauté the duck–it’s a smoky process, but worth it. This woodsy polenta is a perfect partner for the rich gaminess of the duck and the port sauce.


Cooking Methodsauteeing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

OccasionCooking for a date, Formal Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free



Taste and Texturecrisp, juicy, meaty, rich, salty, savory, umami, winey


  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped white button mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup polenta or coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 pounds whole boneless duck breasts, skin on, halved (2, 2½, or 3 breasts)
  • 2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups soft red wine, such as Merlot
  • ½ cup port
  • ½ cup rich duck or chicken stock
  • ¼ cup creme de cassis
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces


  1. TO MAKE THE POLENTA: Soak the porcini mushrooms in very hot water for 30 minutes, squeeze them dry and coarsely chop them. Strain and reserve the soaking water. Set aside both mushrooms and soaking water.

  2. IN A LARGE HEAVY SAUCEPAN, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, white mushrooms, and garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until softened. Add the porcini mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes more. Add the chicken stock and salt and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and, when the liquid is simmering, sprinkle the polenta over in a very slow, thin stream, whisking constantly in the same direction until all the grains are incorporated and no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to low. Switch to a wooden paddle and stir every 1 or 2 minutes for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and the grains of polenta have softened. Add the oregano and pepper to taste, then stir in the Parmesan. Taste for seasoning. Hold the polenta in a large metal bowl covered with aluminum foil and set over a smaller pan of gently simmering water while you prepare the duck breasts.

  3. PREHEAT THE OVEN to 400°F. Place a medium roasting pan inside to heat up.

  4. TO COOK THE DUCK AND MAKE THE SAUCE: Using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breasts in several places, being careful not to cut into the flesh. In a large heavy sauté pan, heat the oil over mediumhigh heat. When it is very hot, place the duck breasts, skin side down, into the pan. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, pouring off the rendered fat halfway through; the skin should be brown and crispy. Place the breasts, flesh side down, in the roasting pan in the hot oven. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes more, depending on how pink you like your duck, and then remove to a cutting board. Loosely cover with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

  5. WHILE THE DUCK IS COOKING in the oven, pour off the remaining fat and discard it. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add the shallots, red wine, port, stock, crème de cassis, salt, and pepper. Over high heat, boil the liquid rapidly to reduce it by about two-thirds, to barely a cup. The sauce should be almost syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cubed butter all at once and whisk constantly until the butter absorbed.

  6. SLICE THE DUCK BREASTS across the grain into ¾-inch slices. Mound some of the polenta on each of 6 warmed dinner plates. Arrange the sliced duck breast next to it and drizzle a little of the sauce over each portion of the duck. Serve at once.

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Never discard duck fat!! Use it to cook the most fabulous potatoes ever.


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