Randy Mayor; Jan Gautro Photo by: Randy Mayor; Jan Gautro

Duck Breast with Cherry-Pepper Sauce

Duck and cabernet sauvignon is an elegant combination--and one of my favorites for a dinner party. This easy cherry and black pepper sauce picks up on the black cherry and peppery flavors of many cabernet sauvignons. Red Bordeaux wines (which are usually a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot) are also sensational with this dish, as are many merlots. Serve with steamed green beans tossed in olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

Cooking Light OCTOBER 2004

  • Yield: 5 servings (serving size: about 3 1/2 ounces duck and about 1/4 cup sauce)


  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can pitted tart red cherries in water, undrained
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 (12-ounce) packages boneless whole duck breast, thawed, skinned, and cut in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup ruby port or other sweet red wine
  • 1/2 cup less-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons butter


Drain canned cherries through a sieve over a bowl. Place 1/2 cup canned cherries and 1/4 cup cherry liquid in a blender; reserve the remaining canned cherries and cherry liquid for another use. Process cherry mixture until smooth.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle duck with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add duck to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan; keep warm. Add shallots to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon pepper and next 6 ingredients (through vinegar); cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; add pureed cherry mixture and butter, stirring until butter melts. Slice duck; serve with sauce.

Perfect wine: Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (Sonoma County), $17. Tasted alone, the Sebastiani cabernet sauvignon is a sleek wine with powerful black cherry and cassis flavors plus a lot of tannic grip. Once the cabernet is paired with the duck, however, real magic happens. The richness of the duck softens the tannins, while the cherries and pepper in the sauce enliven those flavors in the wine to make it taste even more dramatic. It's an example of a truly great match.

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 323
  • Calories from fat: 29%
  • Fat: 10.3g
  • Saturated fat: 3.2g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 4.2g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.1g
  • Protein: 28.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 22.6g
  • Fiber: 0.7g
  • Cholesterol: 109mg
  • Iron: 7mg
  • Sodium: 340mg
  • Calcium: 20mg