Duck loves fruit, and duck breasts in particular do. After crisping the skin, the fat cooks the apples to a delicious golden color, with flavor abounding.
Although many cooks used to wild ducks prefer their duck breasts cooked to 165 degrees, I like mine more medium rare, and aim for 140-145 degrees. Duck breasts are now available, two to a package, in the freezer section of upscale grocery stores. If only older or bitter collards are available, they should be added quickly to a pan of hot water, the water returned to a boil, and drained. Cool slightly, roll up and slice.
Duck Breasts With Apples and Collards
2 duck breasts, thawed if pre-frozen
1 to 2 apples, preferably Gala or other red apple
5 to 6 small well-washed collard or spinach leaves, middle stem removed
Prick the skin of the duck breasts with a fork, going through the fat to the flesh, but not into the flesh. Make one or two horizontal slashes across the skin on the breast down to but not into the flesh.
Put the breasts, skin down, in a heavy frying pan sufficient to hold both breasts. Move the frying pan to the heat, and turn up to medium high. Cook the breast until fat is rendered and the breast is crisp and deep brown. Turn with tongs and brown second side. If the pan is sufficiently large, core and slice the apples into wedges (I prefer leaving the skin on) and add to the pan around the breasts. Cook the breasts until they are the desired temperature (see headnote). Remove to a plate and keep warm if necessary.
Meanwhile, cook the apples in the pan fat until they are lightly brown and turn until brown on second side. Roll the collards up into a cigarette shape and slice across on the diagonal. Add to the pan of apples. Cover with a lid and cook 2 to 3 minutes, until wilted. Surround the breasts with the apple wedges and tuck the collards under or around the breasts and apples.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently the James Beard award-winning “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.