Seared Duck Breasts with Honey Coriander Sauce From In The Kitchen with Le Cordon Bleu

Seared Duck with Honey Coriander sauce

I was recently sent a copy of In The Kitchen with Le Cordon Bleu. It’s a nice looking, well photographed cookbook containing about 100 recipes. Many of the recipes are updated or simplified French classics. The kind of fare that made the cooking school famous– presented here with a modern edge. I’ll start with what I loved about this cookbook. I loved the recipe I chose to make Seared Duck Breasts with Honey Coriander Sauce. It was easy to make and very elegant at the same time. If you’ve never cooked duck breasts before,  this is a great recipe to start. The text is written in a way that ensures good results. So even if you’ve never cooked duck before, you can feel confident with this straight-forward presentation.

It is my experience that many people are afraid to cook duck. That’s partly because duck breasts are very hands on. Especially when you choose to pan-sear them. Properly rendering the fat from duck takes a bit of time and is a bit counter-intuitive. Most pan searing is done hot and fast. Think chops or steak– even fish. They go in a hot pan, often with additional fat added, and you quickly char up a nice crust. Give them the old fliperoo and finish them in a hot oven. Bing. Bang. Boom. However, try that with a duck breast and you’ll end up with a fatty, rubbery crust that’s not too pleasant to chew on. That’s because the fat needs to be slowly rendered out of the skin so it will properly crisp. Do it well and not only will you get that crisp (highly edible) skin, you get the added bonus of a nice clear, clean helping of duck fat. Useful in so many ways.

This book properly instructs the reader to cook the breasts using this technique, that I call the “Bacon Method” (because the cooking process is similar). You start with a cold pan (preferably cast iron). You score the skin and put the breasts (skin side down) in the cold pan. You cook over medium or even medium-low heat. The goal for medium-rare– sweet and rosy, is 125 degrees F. The book didn’t mention that, but that’s the temperature I like.

Wine Pairing

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer 

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer
Gundlach Bundschu Gewurztraminer is a pale gold-tinted wine that is highly fragrant, with exotic fruit and spice aromas. Lychee, orange peel, pear and floral aromas and flavors are prominent, but the spice elements such as ginger and coriander interest me more. This Alsatian-style wine’s spiciness marries perfectly with the coriander in Greg’s Duck Breast dish, and […]
Grant Henry

Price $22.00

Pairs well with Asian food, cheeses, curries, foie gras, fruit, ginger, ham, pork, sausage, turkey

As the authors also point out “duck is a rich meat that pairs nicely with a sweet sauce”. Which is very, very true. The sauce they present is a honey coriander sauce, a lot more sophisticated than that sticky sweet orange sauce you often see served with duck. This honey coriander sauce has just the right balance of sweet honey and salty soy, made all the more interesting by the spice in coriander. I’m going to make this simple sauce a part of my regular rotation.

I also loved the polenta cakes that they suggested you serve with the duck. They weren’t actually a part of the recipe itself, but I’ve included them anyway. I’ll be honest, I haven’t always had success with polenta cakes. They often fall apart in the pan, or they stick to everything and won’t flip over in a clean, attractive manner. But these cakes performed perfectly so I’ll include their recipe here as well.

Many of the recipes in this book are challenging (as they should be from a world class cooking school). However, I can see some readers finding them a little intimidating. The ingredients might be too expensive or difficult to source. The photographs and design have a certain sophisticated, artistic quality that would work in a coffee table book or an aspirational style of cookbook, say from Thomas Keller. But this is an inexpensive paperback, the kind of book you’d expect to cook from. The kind of book you’d expect to be a workhorse. I admire the attempt to present elegant, modern French food to the home cook. I’m just not sure they got the tone quite right for that audience. Making me wonder whether to keep this book in the kitchen or the library. GREG

seared duck and polenta

Duck Breasts with Honey Coriander Sauce 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source From In the Kitchen with Le Cordon BleuPublished
Duck Breasts


  • 2 large duck breasts boneless with skin
  • 2 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 pinch cracked black pepper
  • ½ cup coriander seeds
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • cilantro leaves as garnish, to taste


Prepare the duck breasts: Trim off some excess fat and skin from the duck breasts to neaten the appearance, but leave enough fat to cover one side of the meat for flavor. Score the skin in a crisscross pattern and season both sides. Let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Prepare the Honey Coriander Sauce: Dry-fry the coriander seeds in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat until they give off a spicy aroma and are dark in color (but not burnt), about 3 to 5 minutes. Place into a mortar and crush with a pestle. Put the honey and soy sauce in a large saucepan and slowly bring to a boil, while stirring. Add the stock and crushed coriander seeds and simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a clean pan. Keep warm until serving time.

Cook the duck breasts: Place the breast, skin-side down, in a cool frying pan set over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, pressing the duck frequently to keep it as flat as possible. Remove all the fat from the pan, turn the duck over and cook for a further 7 minutes or until done to your liking. Let the duck rest on a rack near the stove for 5 to 10 minutes.

Serve: Slice the duck and arrange with the Polenta Cakes, if using. Drizzle the sauce on the plate and garnish with cilantro.

Polenta Cakes

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source In the Kitchen with Le Cordon BleuPublished
polenta cakes


  • 1 2/3 cup water or milk
  • salt as needed
  • freshly cracked black pepper as needed
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ⅓ cup polenta (or yellow corn meal)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan grated
  • olive oil as need for frying


In a pot over medium heat, bring the water, seasoning and butter to a boil. Whisk in the polenta. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and cook until the mixture leaves the side of the pan, about 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Once cooked, mix in the Parmesan. Turn the polenta out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and let it sit until just cool enough to handle. Then roll it into a tight log and twist the ends. Allow to cool completely and refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour, overnight is best.

Unwrap the chilled polenta roll and cut into ½ inch thick slices. In a non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Pan-fry the cakes until golden brown on both sides, turning once, about 3 minutes on each side. The polenta cakes should be firm and crisp on the outside but moist and hot on the inside. Remove from the skillet and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.