RECIPE: Duck Breast and Beetroot Sauce

Welcome to another issue of Le Cordon Bong, a newsletter about recreating Michelin star meals at home. You can get in touch with me via the comments or by email. All of the previous content is up on the website (which I personally find to be a more enjoyable reading experience than the email format).

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Vol. 25

Hi readers! I haven’t had a lot of time to cook and write over the past month as I’ve recently re-entered the world of gainful employment, but fear not, this newsletter will keep soldiering on.

I’ll be moving to weekly posts instead of the old twice-weekly format, and there will probably be more “accessible” recipes going forward, (such as the IPA Chicken and Easiest Eggs Benedict), since that’s what you guys seem the most interested in.

This week’s recipe is a weekday-friendly adaptation of the Duck Breast with Cherries and Smoked Beetroot I cooked recently.

A few things I hope you’ll take away from this recipe:

  1. The pan fry and oven finish technique - This is essentially the traditional restaurant method of cooking steaks (which has since been ditched for the modern reverse sear, which cooks steaks more evenly). Starting the duck in the pan renders out the fat so we get nice crispy skin; finishing in the oven hits the duck breast with heat on all sides to get an even cook.

  2. The gelatine-enriched sauce - We’ve done lots of butter reduction sauces on here in the past, and while they’re very velvety and luxurious, they’re not particularly great for the waistline. Another great technique for producing a smooth, glossy sauce is to use a gelatine-rich stock. Ideally, we’d boil down homemade stock with lots of bones for hours, but ain’t nobody got time for that, so we’re gonna take a shortcut and use a couple of sheet of leaf gelatine to create the same effect.

If you do try the recipe, I’d love to hear about it in the comments, or you can hit me up via email. Happy cooking!

Duck Breast and Beetroot Sauce

Serves 4

Note: Most of the time on this recipe is just spent waiting for the sauce to reduce and thicken. When testing, I served this dish with a simple salad of grilled Tuscan kale and shaved parmesan. It would also go great with pommes purée.

Total time: 1 hour / Active time: 30 minutes

Smoked Beetroot Sauce

Total time: 50m


  • Medium saucepan


  • 350ml chicken stock - I use Knorr Chicken Bouillon Paste, which is great for chicken stock on demand.

  • 250ml beetroot juice

  • 2 tsp liquid smoke (optional) - I use Colgin

  • 2 sheets leaf gelatine - platinum leaf gelatine should be the most common type in your supermarket


  1. Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes until completely softened. Wring out the excess water, and combine with the chicken stock, beetroot juice, and liquid smoke (if using) in a saucepan.

  2. Heat on medium-high heat until boiling, and reduce for 30 minutes until it begins to thicken and covers the back of a spoon.

  3. Turn the heat on the sauce down to low, and start cooking the duck.

  4. Let the sauce reduce on low until it reaches your desired consistency (about 15 minutes). I usually test it by drizzling a few swirls of sauce on a spare plate. Keep warm until ready to serve.

    Troubleshooting: If the sauce gets too thick while you’re waiting for the duck to cook, just whisk in 1-2 teaspoons of water at a time to thin it back out.

Seared Duck Breast

Total time: 20m



  • 4 duck breasts, skin-on

  • Fine sea salt, to taste


  1. Pat dry the duck breasts with paper towels, and lightly salt on all sides. Getting the skin of the duck really dry is the key to achieving a crispy finish.

    (You can also do this the day before and place the duck breast on an uncovered plate in the fridge overnight for maximum flavour and crispiness; pat dry again right before cooking.)

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 140°C / 285°F (fan).

  3. Place the duck breasts skin side down in the cold frying pan, and cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the skin is lightly golden. Do NOT move the duck breasts around - you can lift up an edge to take a quick peek when you think it’s nearly done.

  4. Turn the duck breasts over in the pan, and transfer the pan to the oven for 7 minutes, or until the middle reaches 52°C / 125°F on an instant-read thermometer.

    We’re actually targeting a final temperature of 54°C / 130°F, but there’s going to be carry-over cooking after pulling the duck from the oven.

  5. Rest the duck breasts somewhere reasonably warm for 5 minutes, then slice and plate up.

    For the ‘Gram: It’s a tad wasteful, but I’ll slice a thin layer off the bottom of the duck breast so that it stands up nicely on the plate. That slice will be quite well done anyway, so nobody’s missing out on too much.

Equipment and Ingredients

  • Instant-read Thermapen thermometer - Just trust me, bite the bullet, and pay the extra it costs over the cheap knockoff thermometers. This is one of those ‘Buy Nice or Buy Twice’ situations.

  • Chicken bouillon - Better than stock cubes and stock pots, because it’s less salty, which gives you a lot more control over the final taste.

  • Liquid smoke - It’s literally just water infused with wood smoke. Handy for adding a smoky taste to food - I often use it for my homemade barbecue sauces.

Disclaimer: this is a little awkward, but I want to be 100% transparent so that you can have full confidence in my recommendations. I get paid from Amazon links as part of the Amazon Associate program. I will always check to see if the same product is cheaper elsewhere. I don’t receive payment from any other websites I link to. I will only ever link to brands and products that I personally use.