North Carolina Seared Duck Breast with Whiskey Glaze - Blue Whistler Farm

(Disclosure: Honored to partner with the  NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to bring you this recipe using a home-grown NC product.)

Recently, I was invited out to Blue Whistler Farm in Bahama, NC, not far from Durham. I talked with co-owner Amy Sliffe, (who owns with husband Josh) about their lovely farm and the animals they care for, especially the ducks.

We had a great time!

Amy gave me the grand tour. They'd just finished adding additional animals as well as dealing with a large number of live births the previous week. They went from 100 to 800 in a week!

Each type of animal has different living needs, and this was reflected by the varied environments and enclosures they enjoyed to keep them healthy and happy. They even grow food for them onsite!

We saw baby rabbits...

The rabbits were very productive over the summer! They have several breeds and they are well kept in elevated enclosures with the litters together. The above picture of a rabbit kit (baby) doesn't do justice to how sweet they are! The does (mothers) were active and one of them was grooming and stood up to greet us! Who knew there were 'show' rabbits?! My kind of peeps!

And then there were turkeys...

Chickens of varied stripes and country origins.... 

and very friendly Kune Kune (Say hi Ginny and Winny!).
As I talked with Amy during the tour, I couldn't help but notice the care they put into each animals' environment. They all had different types of enclosures suitable to their needs, and some were temporary or portable so they could be pastured properly and have some variety, depending on age and breeds.

But now for the main attraction!
The ducks were especially plentiful and well-cared for!

They still keep Blue Whistler ducks, as pets more so.

We had fun taking a moment to get to know the others a bit better, though!
Amy explained more about the process, raising them from ducklings to full grown birds.
I asked about inclement weather, and she explained that the most important time is when birds are young. This is when the cooperage is more vital on farms. Once they are full grown, they develop those thick, insulating layers of fat and feathers we're more familiar with, and they can withstand alot more variation in temperature and conditions. Of course, many of these birds do so as some species are migratory by nature. 

Nevertheless, they are certainly treasured here! I was impressed once again by how much care was involved in the general maintenance of a farm, but also with how simple and admirable a concept it is to raise animals sustainably.

I got to visit them at the Durham Roots Farmer's Market as well!

They have customers and families that come by regularly for their meats.

Area chefs must think they do the job pretty well too, since there are popular restaurants who have sourced their duck!

I was honored to take home an entire peking duck, and commenced preparations right away. After thawing I broke it down into the parts which would become dinner plans. I saved the back and necks for soup or broth.

I'd worked with Muscovy before, but Peking less. Amy asked if Muscovy duck breast was really a bigger meat section. It's sourced by chefs a great deal, but my take on it is 'not necessarily'. You'll soon see why.

Peking breasts had a thinner profile raw.... but!

I trimmed my duck breasts long. The legs and thighs were still normal-sized - which I seasoned for confit prep.

 What you'll notice is that the minute the duck breasts hit the cast iron pan, they shorten and plump up nicely. So while Muscovy may be thicker as a cut, they are not necessarily thicker in the end product. They were actually quite the same, if the Peking wasn't a tad wider - even after rendering.

See video here:

Honey Brined Peking Duck Breast with Whiskey Glaze

This was almost a 4 lb duck, thawed and fabricated (cut up).

For 2 Servings


1/2 cup or 4oz honey
1/2 cup salt
4-5 sprigs thyme
1 TB marjoram
1 to 1-1/2 cups hot water to dissolve sugar/salt; whisk until dissolved
Remaining ice water to cover breasts

Brine for 2-3 hours refrigerated in a non-reactive container or stainless-steel bowl.

Pour off brine and replace with just enough cool water to cover and refrigerate over night.

This won't rob the flavor but will give a less gamey palate to a fresh duck/game bird.

When ready to cook, heat a seasoned and oiled cast iron skillet or heat-proof pan thoroughly hot on low. Drain and pat the breasts dry.

Score the breast fat side up through the subcutaneous fat 3-4 times, but not through the meat itself.
A sharp filet knife, lightly applied should do the trick.

I rubbed the skinless side with cut garlic cloves, and a mix of 1 tsp each nutmeg, smoked paprika, sage, black pepper, cumin, coriander and marjoram.

Render off the duck breast fat side down until the skin is crispy and golden brown, this will take at least 10-15 minutes if not more. Keep an eye on it and check for flipping periodically, based on your pan and heat source.

Once the skin side is a deep golden brown, pour off most of the rendered fat and reserve.
Flip them over just to sear, and pop the pan in the oven until desired doneness, at least 8-10 minutes on 350 degrees F. Most people like their duck with a tinge of color remaining to prevent toughness.
It was incredibly tender, plump and moist, when done.

Tip: Let the breasts rest for a few minutes before slicing to maintain the juiciness.

1 1/2 cups (8-12 fl. oz) preferred whiskey - I used a sour mash corn-based whiskey - caramel notes work best.
3/4-1 cup (6-8 oz) dark brown sugar - to taste
1/2 teaspoon each ground sage, coriander, black pepper, cloves
Let this reduce until viscous.

Whisk in:
1/4 cup (approx 2 fl. oz) tamari or other soy sauce
Juice of half a lime

Adjust salt/pepper.
Finish with a pat of butter for richness.
It will be similar to molasses in color and viscosity.

Pour over sliced duck. The sauce will thin on the hot, rested duck breast.

For Duck Fat Fingerlings

Heat enough reserved duck fat to fry on medium low.

Flour mixture
1 cup (approx 4.5 oz) gluten-free flour or rice flour
1 TB smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt

Slice or bias cut the fingerling potatoes.
Dip in milk of choice, and dredge in flour mixture.
Fry until golden brown and crispy-coated on each side, 4-5 minutes on the first side depending on thickness, less on the second side - or until done to desired tenderness and coloring.

Haricot Verts - Green Beans
Steam off green beans until done but with some snap.

With remaining flour mixture, (about 1/2 dry cup) create a white sauce in pan with 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz) milk and reduce - add a pat of butter to finish.

(You'll notice I did not start with a roux for either sauce, as this dish is already quite rich, and butter isn't entirely necessary.)

I hope you enjoyed getting quacking with me and Blue Whistler Farm!

Here's hoping you keep eating local and relish getting to know your farmer!

Extra note: They will be participating in the Eastern Carolina Farm Tour September 23rd and 24th. Blue Whistler Farm is available for the same hours as the tour - open 1-5 pm both Saturday and Sunday! There are multiple locations for purchasing a button in advance, such as Weaver Street Market, Durham Farmer's Market, Durham Co-op Market; Harmony Farms and Standard Foods in Raleigh; or online at Cars can purchase a button day of ($35.00 day) directly from Blue Whistler as with most of the farms.

They'll have their own *Free Admission* open farm day on site again on October 14th.
Food purchases are separate for either occasion. Don't forget your cooler!

Bon Appetit!

Check out more yummy fun from our #GotToBeNCChicken #NCFarmersMarketChicken blogger group! These are some of my favorite people!

Sheet Pan Chicken from Chrissie Nelson Rotko at Off the Eaten Path

NC Farmers Market Feast  from Nancie McDermott

Farmer's Market Chicken Salad from Melissa at Adventures of a Frugal Mom

Crispy Roasted Chicken with Blueberry Gastrique from Nikki Miller-Ka at NikSnacks

Enjoy North Carolina Chicken, available all over North Carolina at farms and at your local farmers markets. Learn more about North Carolina Chicken, chicken farmers, and grab some delicious chicken recipes in this round up of 5 North Carolina chicken recipes. Enjoy! Sponsored by the NCDA&CS. |


Jennifer Field said…
Lord, Hadassah! What a wonderful visit to Blue Whistler, and what an incredible meal you made! I loved all your facebook live videos and the photos along the way. And now I'm starving! Thank you for being a part of the Got To Be NC Chicken promotion, especially as our Lone Duck! xo
This sounds absolutely divine. I've never cooked duck before but after reading your post, I'm going to have to try it! (also duck fat potatoes are my fave!)
This looks delicious and I loved learning about Blue Whistler Farm and seeing the farmers' market. Planning to stop by and pick up some of this excellent duck for a fall feast. Thanks for sharing this autumn outing and inviting recipe!
Thank you for your kind thoughts ladies! This was the most fun yet! I loved getting to hold the animals and learn more about them. Amy was a dear person, and they have field trips from the local school all the time. She's a pro. Thank you for having me Jenni!

Chrissie, you will love it. I hope you enjoy! You too dear Nancie! Please let me know how all turns out!


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