January 26, 2018

Spice Crusted Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Gastrique Recipe

When you have a wine as powerful as our 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, finding a worthy food pairing can be daunting. Luckily, Chef Cristina Topham of Spread Catering Company was up for the challenge and she certainly delivered!

Chef Cristina created a recipe using ingredients inspired by the warm cooking spice aromas and dark fruit notes of this special Mountain-grown wine. Her Spice Crusted Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Gastrique perfectly complements this Cabernet while providing a balance to its intense structure.

Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently reviewed our 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon noting that it is a “robustly crafted, powerfully concentrated experience, thick and hugely extracted in black fruit and black pepper.” It was also deemed highly collectible, receiving a Cellar Selection designation.

Read the full review >>

Spice Crusted Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Gastrique
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Serving Size: 4-6

Spice Crusted Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Gastrique


  • 4 Duck Breasts
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 4 whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • Pinch of ground star anise
  • Salt to taste
  • -
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Shallots, minced
  • ½ cup sour cherry syrup*
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary, finely minced
  • Pinch of star anise
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Over medium heat toast the peppercorns, coriander, allspice and cloves, until fragrant – about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and grind in a spice mill or mortar and pestle to a powder. Combine with cinnamon, paprika, and star anise.
  2. Blot duck breasts dry with a paper towel. Using a sharp knife, score skin of duck breast in a diagonal direction, being careful not to cut through the flesh too deeply. Rotate the breast and score again in the opposite direction, creating a crisscross pattern. It is easier to do this while the duck is cold and firm. Scoring will help render the fat, for a crispier skin.
  3. Season the duck breasts on both sides with salt and the spice mix, working it into the scored skin. Set the duck breasts aside until ready to cook, or refrigerate over night. If refrigerating, bring duck to room temperature 20 minutes before cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add olive oil and shallots. Cook until shallots are soft, but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add sour cherry syrup, sugar, vinegar, rosemary and pinch of star anise. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer until sauce is thickened slightly, 6-7 minutes. Sauce should be a little thinner than honey. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks in an airtight container.
  5. To finish, preheat oven to 350 degrees and preheat a cast iron skillet on medium heat for 10 minutes. When skillet is hot, add the duck breasts skin side down and lower the heat. Allow the ducks to cook slowly, 8-10 minutes or until fat is rendered and skin is crisp. Turn duck over and cook skin-side up for 2 minutes. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 5 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 155 degrees. Remove duck from pan, reserving the fat for another use (like duck fat roasted potatoes!) and place on a plate or cutting board to rest for 5-7 minutes. This will redistribute the juices so they don’t flow out when the duck is sliced. The temperature will continue to rise while it rests and should reach 165 degrees. Slice and top with a generous spoonful of sauce over each breast.


*Sour cherry syrup can be found at specialty food stores. I like Darbo brand sour cherry syrup from Amazon or Monterey Market in Berkeley.


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