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Pan-Roasted Breast of Duck with French Green-Lentil Salad

Pan-Roasted Breast of Duck with French Green-Lentil Salad

A duck breast is always an elegant component to a meal. The elements of this can all be made in advance and then just put together at the service time. The cardinal sin is to overcook the breast; the highest acceptable temperature is medium, and even that is pushing it. If it doesn’t have a pink hue throughout the entire breast, it’s overcooked.   

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 8Servings



  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, peeled cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 small fennel, bulb only, cleaned and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1½ cups dry French green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small bunch thyme
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • Salt and white pepper


  • 4 fresh whole duck breasts
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and minced
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and white pepper


  • 3 sprigs flat leaf (Italian) parsley, leaves only


1. To make the lentils: Place a 10-inch skillet on the stovetop over medium heat and add the oil. Add the carrot, red onion, and fennel and cook slowly, without color, until they become somewhat translucent; this should take no more than four to five minutes. Add the lentils to the pan and mix them in with the vegetables. Add enough cold water to the pan to cover the lentils by at least one inch. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and season with salt and white pepper. Raise the temperature on the stovetop to high heat and bring everything to a boil. Lower the temperature on the stovetop to low heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, simmering, for about 20 minutes. Taste the lentils for doneness: you will know the lentils are properly cooked when they are soft all of the way through, yet still firm enough to hold their shape. 

Note: If the lentils need to cook longer add more water in 1-cup intervals, allowing the water to be fully absorbed each time. The lentils must maintain their integrity, meaning that they must still have a firm texture and not become mushy.]

When ready, spread the lentils out in a single layer onto a clean baking sheet to cool. Remove and discard the herbs. Refrigerate until the lentils are cold to the touch.

2. To cook the duck breast: Use a sharp chef’s knife to score an X pattern into the fat on the back of each breast (see page 00). Place a 10-inch skillet on the stovetop over low to medium heat. Add the breasts, fat side down, and let cook, untouched; it will take about eight to 12 minutes for the breasts to brown and for all of the fat to render off. Leave the breasts be, do not futz with them during this process. Once you see that about three tablespoons or so of fat has rendered into the pan, use a pair of tongs to gently lift the breasts and take a look. If most of the white fat has rendered out and the remaining skin is crispy and brown, the duck breasts are ready to be flipped. Flip over each breast and sear them meat side down for another three minutes. Remove the breasts from the pan and place them on a cutting board fat side up. While the duck is hot, season both the fat and the skin side with salt and black pepper. Allow the duck breasts to rest on the cutting board for 10 minutes before slicing into them. Pour the rendered duck fat into a container and store for later use; it can be used as a wonderful fat for roasting potatoes.

3. To make the vinaigrette: Place the vinegar, mustard, and shallots in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking continuously until all of the oil has been added and the dressing has emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

4. To serve: Place the lentils in a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette to your liking. Toss in the parsley leaves and season as necessary.  

Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut each of the duck breasts width-wise into even, ¾-inch-wide slices.

Divide the lentils evenly onto the centers of eight plates. Artfully layer about six slices of duck breast over each pile of lentils. Drizzle each plate with some of the remaining the vinaigrette.

Recipe posted with permission from Le Marais: A Rare Steakhouse - Well Done, by Mark Hennessey and Jose Mereilles