Duck with Apples

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Duck with apples is a classic combination, especially in France, where there is a similar dish called chicken Normandy that I make with pheasant. This version is simpler.

A plate of duck with apples with a duck lanyard in the background.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I named this dish “Ducks in the Orchard,” and came up with it for the “Duck Off,” a friendly cooking competition I had years ago with the then-head chef at Sacramento’s Grange restaurant, Michael Tuohy.

I wanted to combine duck with apples in a new way, and I wanted to serve the judges some duck breast, which I thought they’d want; after all, breasts are the most accessible part of the bird.

I call it “Ducks in the Orchard” because ducks eat apples when they can find them, and besides, I like naming my dishes.

You will want to use a cooking apple in this recipe; otherwise they’ll get too mushy. Here’s a guide to good cooking apples.

I have detailed instructions for cooking the duck breast in the recipe below, but I also have a good video on how to cook a duck breast here.

Duck with apples isn’t the only duck and fruit combo: If you’re looking for another option, try my recipe for duck breast with orange-ouzo sauce.

Closeup of duck with apples.
4.74 from 23 votes

Duck Breast with Apples

This is a simple preparation that works just fine with domestic duck. I like to serve this as-is on the plate because it's pretty, but you can serve it alongside wild rice, mashed or roasted potatoes, or even just some good crusty bread. A simple green salad is a good vegetable here.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 pounds duck breasts
  • 1 tablespoon duck fat or butter
  • 2 apples, such as Jonagold or Fuji
  • 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or maple sugar
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider, hard or sweet
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • Nice salt, to finish

Instructions 

  • Take the duck breasts out of the fridge and salt lightly. Let sit at room temperature for 25 minutes.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into a bowl of water. Slice the apples into quarter moons of about 1/4 inch thick. Do not peel. Drop each slice into the lemon juice and make sure all sides are coated to avoid browning.
  • Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the duck fat or butter and swirl to coat the pan. Place the duck breasts skin side down, turn the heat to medium and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until golden brown. Turn over and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes, depending on how you like your duck. Remove the duck breasts and tent loosely with foil. Let them rest while you make the sauce.
  • Spoon off all but about 3 tablespoons of fat. Cook the apples over medium-high heat; do not crowd them. Brown the apples lightly on both sides. When you flip them, sprinkle the brown sugar over everything and swirl to combine while the apples continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the cider in the pan and put the heat up as high as it will go. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and the cayenne into the pan and boil this furiously until it cooks down by two-thirds.
  • Slice the duck breast pieces roughly the same width as the apples. To make the dish, make a rosette of alternating duck breast and apple in the center of the plate. Spoon a small amount of the reduced cider on each piece of duck, then one more spoonful in the center of the rosette. Sprinkle with the fresh mint and the salt. Serve at once.

Notes

Whatever apple you use, make sure it’s a firm cooking apple. 

Nutrition

Calories: 319kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 134mg | Sodium: 101mg | Potassium: 635mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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5 Comments

  1. Very happy with this recipe! Beautiful presentation. I served also with orange carrots because I love Duck a l’orange. Along with my 1917 cabernet it made a perfect meal. I never knew duck was a red meat and it what flavor this recipe gave it. Thank you!

  2. Thanks, Hank. I made this recipe using a ~14 oz. Moulard duck breast dry-brined with 3.95 g kosher salt (1% of weight of the meat) for about 6 hours before bring up to room temp and cooking on medium heat (5 setting on the dial) on an glass cooktop electric range in a heavy, multi-ply steel pan (famous USA-made brand) using some smoked duck fat rendered and saved from Moulard duck legs that I had smoked previously.

    I checked the skin at the 5-minute mark, and it was already well-browned and crisp, so proceeded to turn it to cook on the “meat side” for what ended up being another 9 minutes (about 2 minutes longer than the suggested 14-minute suggested max cooking time) since it seemed to take a little longer for internal temp readings taken with an instant-read probe thermometer to come up within the desired range around 135 degrees before taking off to allow to rest and coast under a loose foil tent.

    The duck fat in the pan had become pretty dark at that point, so I drained and wiped the pan out and started over with fresh smoked duck fat to fry the apples, which I sprinkled with some Maple Pepper from Quebec in place of the brown sugar, and instead of cider, I de-glazed the pan with about 3 oz. of Calvados, which evaporated more quickly of course and left little liquid for sauce at the end but did a nice job of bronzing the apple slices.

    After resting, the duck breast was (back down to) 130-135 degrees, and good news, when it was sliced, it was a perfect deep rosy pink on the thinner, tapered end to a nice juicy ruby red on the thicker end, pretty much edge-to-edge all around. In other words, perfectly cooked (imo), so the lack of sauce (other than the juicy meat drippings, of course) did not matter at all in the end.

    Served the sliced duck and apples with chopped fresh mint over cauliflower mash pureed together with some labne to add creaminess and some acidic tang, and flavored with horseradish and seasoned with sea salt and white pepper.

    Thanks for the inspiration all of your recipes for preparing delicious duck and other water fowl and game !

  3. thanks for the great directions. left mine on about 40 seconds to long but still delicious! did it with the apples. I took a picture but don’t know how to attach.

  4. Just wanted to stop by and say I tried this recipe last week and it’s absolutely brilliant. I’ll be making it again and again. Thank you!

  5. This is a plate licker which presently surprised me. Thanks Hank for teaching me how to up my food game on wild ducks and geese!