French Fridays with Dorie: Duck breast with fresh peaches

Duck breast with fresh peaches on

I don’t know about you but when I rent a house for my vacation, the first place I head to on arrival is the kitchen. I check out every drawer and cupboard, mentally taking stock of what’s going to be possible with the equipment that is there. Then I check the wifi 😉

For me, cooking on my holidays is not a chore as some might think it would be. I love cooking and when I am in a different country, really enjoy the challenge of finding ingredients and working in unfamiliar kitchens. It’s fun. It can also be quite an adventure. This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe, that I was cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen (Duck breast with fresh peaches, p 230)  didn’t look like it would be much of an adventure, however. Seared duck breast and  peaches sautéed with thyme and garlic and served with a honey-port-balsamic sauce. Even though I knew I would be working sans several ingredients, I knew I had the main ones so figured I would be ok. Peaches are in season here in the south of France so it was a perfect dish to be making.  Neil and I are holidaying with 2 vegetarians and I have had my duck quotient for the next little while (it’s not my favourite meat but I seem to have eaten it more in the last 6 weeks than I have in the last year!) so I was happy to be able to purchase one gorgeous duck breast just for Neil.

Pottering around the kitchen doing my mise en place (I was also making a ratatouille tian and a peach clafoutis at the same time, nothing like multitasking…), I placed a high-sided pan (that we had not used in this house prior to this meal) on the hotplate and heated it on medium-high. With just 10 minutes to go before the rest of the meal would be ready, I scored the duck skin/fat and placed it fat side down in the pan. Oy! The pan was a little hot…

What happened in the next 5 minutes was so fast that even I, who am usually “iPhone at the ready” at all times, did not capture this on film!  The pan, not being a very heavy one, was SO much hotter than I expected. So the duck fat cooked VERY fast. And all of a sudden there was a dense cloud of smoke shrouding the tiny kitchen. I closed the door to the living room, not wishing acrid smoke smell  to go all through the house, then the smoke alarm went off (it’s good to know your rental home has a smoke alarm). I grabbed the smoking pan and took it out in the middle of the street (we’re in a tiny village so I wasn’t expecting any traffic at 8pm on a Sunday night) then ran back to get tongs to remove the duck from the pan because, you know, when you only have one of the main ingredient, there are no second chances… The duck was VERY crispy but not beyond rescue. I placed the still smoking pan on our metal letter box for want of a better place to leave it until it calmed down a little and placed the duck in a different pan to finish it off.

All this time, Neil was fanning the smoke detector in an attempt to turn it off but to no avail. At this point a friendly local popped their head in the kitchen (all our ground floor rooms look out directly into the road, it’s very convivial!) to check up on us. This was the first person we’d seen since we arrived the previous day (it’s a tiny village and quite sleepy in August) so it was a little bit of a shock but a welcome one. Meanwhile, Neil had removed the battery from the smoke alarm until the smoke subsided a little as the fanning was making absolutely no difference.

Smoke cleared from the kitchen and the duck resting in the oven (and battery back in the smoke alarm), I realised I had not made my version of the sauce (lacking port and a few other ingredients, I had an idea in my head for what to do). Then I realised I probably didn’t have time to figure out something as I didn’t want the duck to be overcooked. In any case, my peaches, garlic and thyme were quite nicely caramelised by now so I figured that would be “sauce” enough.

I set to slicing the duck (actually I had Neil do this) only to realise that in my fretting about overcooking the duck, it was way undercooked (for Neil to say this, it really means it’s undercooked!). Back to the pan for a few minutes it was – better to under than over-cook, I say – it can always be rescued.

Enfin, on the plate, it didn’t look half bad, if I do say so myself. And only a hint of smoke smell 😉

Duck breast with Fresh peaches for French Fridays with Dorie on

Would I make this again? Yes, in fact, I would. I loved the flavour of the peaches and would love to make it with the proper sauce. And, of course, in a pan that I know on a stovetop that I know. But for a “vacation” effort, I didn’t think I did too badly…


French Fridays with Dorie participants do not publish the recipes on our blogs (though this week, you can find the recipe online here), we prefer if you purchase Around My French Table for yourselves which you can do here on Amazon or Amazon Canada. Or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository. Go on, treat yourself then join us here!


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17 thoughts on “French Fridays with Dorie: Duck breast with fresh peaches”

  1. Oh, my! I’m so glad your finished duck was a hit despite the challenges! Yeah, I was cooking for 12 up in northern Wisconsin and was underwhelmed by the kitchen supplies myself.

  2. You didn’t do badly at all! Definitely give this one a try when you get back home. The sweet sauce is delicious. Do you travel with any ‘essential’ kitchen item when you head out on a long holiday?

  3. Sometimes, I find that I enjoy cooking an vacation even more than I do at home (although, I do miss my cooking implements and pans when on the road – I have yet to come across a condo rental with a good enameled cast iron pot…)

    Glad to hear you survived 🙂

  4. Funnily enough – I made this at home last month when Mardi was away, as I saw a beautiful Brome Lake duck at the market…

    I have to say, my duck was tastier, and a better cut. But not nearly as entertaining. Mardi’s sauce was nice, though. 😉

  5. You will certainly remember this vacation, and I have to say the duck turned out well. Many thanks for the birthday wishes.

  6. I am just in a duck mood now and tonight I will make the other two breasts I bought. I am going to think about the village disruption you created as I cook them. You are a better chef than I to brave a strange kitchen!

  7. I love to cook on vacation. We spend about four weeks in Fla. every October. I always enjoy having my lunches out and making our dinners. It sounds like you had quite an adventure with this one. It looks beautifully done. Glad it was not a total loss! Happy Friday!

  8. Wow! I can just imagine myself in a similar situation, but you pulled it off. The duck looked delicious, I could almost taste it. It’s duck for us this week. Well done Mardi, considering how you feel about duck! (Ping)

  9. Hilarious, Mardi! I’m impressed with how calm you seemed to stay through all the drama. I’m glad that it was still delicious. It could have been disaster. When traveling, I often regret when I’m staying in a hotel when I’m coming across delicious ingredients that I could be cooking. Sounds like you are making the most of your vacation.

  10. What an adventure! I had a similar smoke alarm experience last week with grilled chicken… Duck breast and peaches is much more exotic! This looks gorgeous — well worth the damaged ear drums 🙂

  11. This is an anecdote that will only get better with time. I think the two of you are terrific at “rolling with the punches”. I sense that the both of you were calm. I think I would have been hysterical. Your duck and peaches look amazingly delicious, perfectly done. How could you pull that off, Mardi. I wish you had reported on the ratatouille tian and peach clafoutis. They both sound delicious. I just picked up a large sack of fresh Colorado peaches at the local Farmer’s Market and was wondering which dessert I should make. Maybe, peach clafoutis. Loved Dorie’s cherry clafoutis. Enjoy your respite in the sleep little French village. I suspect that everyone, everyone, knows that a couple of Canadians are in residence.


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