Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Herbed Honey & Mushrooms

Herbal, sweet, crisp and rich. These Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Herbed Honey & Mushrooms have it all.

Pan-Seared Duck Breasts with Herbed Honey & Mushrooms 

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  • 1 cup honey
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme, tied in a bundle
  • 4 boneless duck breasts with skin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoon thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoon flat-leafed parsley, minced
  • 2 tablespoon chives, minced
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • baby lettuce, as garnish (optional)


Make the herbed honey: Combine the honey and thyme sprigs in a small saucepan set over low heat. Warm the honey, stirring often for 15 to 20 minutes, making sure the honey does not boil or scorch.

Remove from the heat and allow the honey to cool. Strain out the herbs, then bottle the honey and label it as the recipe makes more than you will need for the duck.

Prep the duck for cooking: Using a sharp knife, cut a ⅓‑inch crosshatch pattern in the skin of each breast, being careful not to pierce the meat. Do this while the duck is cold, since it’s difficult to do at room temperature.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the olive oil, 1‑teaspoon red wine vinegar, ½‑teaspoon salt, garlic, and 1‑tablespoon thyme leaves into a paste. Smear the breasts all over with the paste. Wrap each breast tightly and individually in plastic wrap and return the the refrigerator at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours.

Prepare the mushrooms: Melt the butter in a medium-sized skillet set over medium-low heat; add the mushrooms and serrano chili. Cook stirring often about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to weep out their moisture. Add the white wine, remaining thyme leaves, parsley and chives, and continue to cook stirring often about 6 more minutes, stir in 1‑tablespoon of herbed honey. Remove from heat.

Sear the duck breasts: Remove the duck from the plastic and wipe away most of the paste. Drizzle a bit of herbed honey on each breast and rub it into the flesh.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Set two large cast-iron frying pans over medium heat. Add 2 duck breasts, skin-side-down, to each cold pan. Cook, moving the duck breasts every few minutes to help the skin brown evenly. (If you have only one large pan, cook 2 or 3 breasts at a time in 2 batches). The idea is to slowly render the fat. As the fat is rendered, carefully pour the excess (leaving about 1/8‑inch) from each frying pan; move the pan away from the heat when you remove the fat, since it could cause a flare-up were it to hit the flame.

Cook the duck for a total of 15 to 20 minutes, until the skin is dark brown from the caramelized honey and very crisp. The internal temperature of the breasts should be about 115 F. Flip each breast letting it cook a mere 30 seconds. Remove most of the duck fat from the pan, leaving about 1/8‑inch.

Then flip the breasts back over, skin-side-down, and move them to the pre-heated oven and cook for about 5 minutes. The internal temperature should be 125 F for a pink to rose medium-rare.

Put the cooked duck breasts skin-side-down on a cooling rack set over a baking pan (to catch the juices) and let rest them for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing while you make the sauce and finish the mushrooms.

Add the vegetable stock and any accumulated juices from the baking pan to the hot skillets. Scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Consolidate the liquids into one skillet and reduce the mixture down to about ½‑cup. About 10 minutes. Remove from heat and strain into a small bowl.

Finish the mushrooms. Add about half of the sauce you just made to the mushrooms and gently re-heat them.

Cut each piece of duck diagonally against the grain into 3–4 slices. Mix any accumulated juices into the remaining sauce, mix well and puddle 1 or 2 tablespoons onto the centers of 4 warmed dinner plates. Lay the duck slices onto the sauce. Serve some of the mushrooms on the side. Garnish with the baby lettuce and drizzle some of the herbed honey attractively around the plate. Serve warm.