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Oct 17, 2017
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WINE WITH…Duck Breast with White Beans

Two things inspired the creation of this splendid dish: the fact that we had a duck breast in the freezer, and the rapid disappearance of summer tomatoes (sadly, this may be the last week for them at our farmers’ market here in the mid-Atlantic region). The resulting dish is elegant enough to serve at a celebratory dinner, but because it is straightforward and simple to make, it can also been enjoyed as a week-night supper.

Duck Breast with White Beans

Serves two.

For the Duck:

1 duck breast
1 teaspoon each minced fresh rosemary and thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
about 1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
zested rind of ½ lemon
red pepper flakes (optional)

For the Beans:

1 tablespoon duck fat or olive oil
2-3 shallots cut lengthwise in quarters
2-4 garlic cloves cut lengthwise in quarters or eighths
1 large or two medium tomatoes cut in 1-2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon each minced fresh rosemary and thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 cups cooked white beans such as Great Northern, Cannellini or Navy
salt and pepper

For the Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons minced onions or shallots
1 ½ cups duck or chicken stock
½ cup red wine
1 tablespoon Cointreau, Grand Marnier or other orange flavor liqueur

To cook the duck breast: With a sharp knife, score the skin of the duck breast, being careful not to cut into the flesh. Mix together the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and pepper flakes (if using). Blot the duck breast dry and rub the herb mixture into both sides of it. Let rest at least 10 minutes and up to one hour.

Place the skin side down in a heavy skillet (preferably not non-stick). Turn the heat on and cook the breast over medium-to-medium-high heat, for 5 to 10 minutes (adjust the heat as necessary so that it doesn’t burn). Turn the duck breast over and continue cooking for another 3 minutes or so, or until it feels lightly springy to the touch when pressed. Remove it from the pan and let it rest, lightly covered, until ready to serve.

To cook the beans: Heat the duck fat or olive oil and stir in the shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to color. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute or two, then stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover the pan and simmer for about 30 minutes (check once or twice and if the mixture seems dry add ¼ cup or so of water).

To make the sauce, pour the duck fat out* but do not wash the skillet. Add one tablespoon of butter to the skillet and when it has melted add the chopped onions or shallot. When they just begin to color, pour in the duck or chicken stock and cook, over high heat, for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the red wine and continue to cook until the mixture has reduced by about half. Lower the heat and stir in the remaining tablespoon of butter. When it has thoroughly melted, stir in the Cointreau and immediately turn off the heat.

To serve, reheat the beans if necessary and pour them into a shallow bowl or deep serving dish. Slice the duck breast on the bias and fan the slices out on top of the beans. Pour the sauce over it all and serve at once.

*Discard the duck fat or store it in the refrigerator or freezer. Use it for sautéing potatoes, roasting vegetables, or searing meats such as pork chops or chicken.

* * *

An elegant, full-flavored dish calls for a wine with a comparable character. In this case, it should be red, as the duck tastes meaty and rich. A Cabernet or Bordeaux-styled red will work well, but so too will a lighter wine such as a Pinot Noir or earthy Loire red. We tried nine different wines, and these were our favorites. We recognize, though, that other varieties and different styles can work equally well.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Approx. Price



Valle de Uco





(Folio Wine Partners)


This blend of Malbec (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) is true to its name, being very expressive both in the bouquet and on the plate. It is dominated by ripe black fruit flavors enhanced by hints of anise and spice, and while soft and accessible, has enough tannin for structure. Its flavors complemented the duck, its texture did the same with the beans


Brunello di Montalcino



“Elisabetta Gnudi Angelina”


(Vineyard Brands)


Surprisingly light in color but full of dark cherry fruit flavor enhanced by characteristic spicy, dusty notes, this wine meshed nicely with the dish. Its earthy personality added a new dimension to the pairing.

Joseph Carr,


Napa Valley


Red Blend



Chock-full of ripe sweet fruit, this lively but substantial red tasted a tad sappy on its own, but paired beautifully with the duck and beans. The savory flavors in the dish cut through the wine’s sweetness, giving it an extra level of complexity. As often happens with wine and food pairings, the dish significantly changed the initial impression the wine made.


Yamhill-Carlton District

Willamette Valley


Pinot Noir

“Yamhill Vista Vineyard



Bright and lively, but with earthy depth underneath its fruit, this wine worked with the dish precisely because those secondary flavors proved so enticing with it. Duck is not a shy meat; it needs an exuberant wine.

Stinson Vineyards, Monticello





Nowhere near as tannic or muscular as Tannat from Uruguay or even Madiran from France, this is instead a fairly supple, full-flavored but gentle red. It tastes of black fruit with echoes of leather, dried tobacco, and sizzling meat fat, and so meshed beautifully with the duck.