This article was originally featured in The 30 Second Wine Advisor's FoodLetter on Thursday, July 27, 2006.

Spiced duck for Pinot

INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)

1 boneless duck breast with skin (14 to 16 ounces or about 400 to 500g)
1/2 teaspoon (3g) ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Asian five-spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Rinse the duck breast and pat it dry. Cut a few slashes in the skin in a checkerboard pattern and place it skin-side down in a small skillet or nonstick saute pan over medium heat. You won't need any additional oil, as the duck will give off plenty. Cook for 10 or 15 minutes or so, turning occasionally but keeping the skin side down, mostly, pouring off the fat from time to time, until the skin is crisp and brown and much of the fat has rendered off. (Save the fat in a clean container; it will keep for a week or two in the refrigerator and makes a fantastic sauteeing medium, if you're not nervous about animal fat.)

2. While the duck is browning, preheat your oven to 400F (200C), and combine all the spice ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Take the duck off heat, drain all the remaining fat, and pat the spice mixture all over. (To avoid burns, I used the back of a spoon to spread and pat the spice.)

4. Using the same pan (assuming it has an oven-proof handle), put the duck into the oven for 10 minutes or so, skin-side down, to finish cooking. A little pink at the center is fine, although rare duck breast is a bit of an acquired taste; check with a meat thermometer and pull it out at around 155F internal temperature if you don't want to go by guess and feel.

5. Slice the duck crosswise in fairly thin strips, with a bit of crispy skin along the edge of each, and serve with a starch (I like it with steamed rice) and something green and a very good Pinot Noir.

As noted, this dish was designed specifically to go with a big, bold but not monolithic North Coast California Pinot Noir, the Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2002 Pinot Noir featured in the California Wine Club Connoisseurs' Series report in Monday's 30 Second Wine Advisor. It would certainly fare well with any good quality New World Pinot or even a Burgundy in the bigger, riper style (including many of the 2003s).