This meal is inspired by my trip to Oaxaca. Most of what I know about Mexican food is street food, and Oaxaca did not disappoint. I still dream about the beef head food cart, and the smoke-filled hall of grilled meat in the 20th of November market.
My big surprise was how good the high-end dining was in Oaxaca. A couple of the best meals were not street food - they were fine dining restaurants, where the chef fused Mexican flavors with modern cooking techniques.
Those dinners are the inspiration for these tacos. They’re nowhere near as elaborate - I’m just one guy, not a chef with a full kitchen brigade to help out - but duck breast adds elegance to any meal.
The trick to this recipe is patience. Duck breast has a lot of fat under the skin, and we need to render it out as we crisp up the duck skin. I do this over medium-low heat, leaving the duck breast skin side down until it is golden, brown, and delicious. (You’ll be amazed how much fat is released by this process. A quick sear on the meaty side of the breast and the duck is (perfectly pink) medium and ready to serve.
Cast Iron Duck Breast Tacos with Chipotle Salsa
Cast Iron Duck Breast Tacos with Chipotle Salsa recipe. Duck makes it elegant, chipotle salsa makes it hot, and it comes together in minutes.
- 4 duck breasts, skin scored in ½ inch diamond pattern
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Ancho chile powder (or chili powder blend)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle en adobo peppers with liquid
- 1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- Slivered scallions
- Crumbled Cotija cheese (or other Mexican crumbled cheese)
- Cilantro leaves
- Prep the duck breast and the pan: With a very sharp knife, score the skin duck breast in a ½ inch diamond pattern. Sprinkle the duck breasts with the salt and ancho chile powder. Set the cast iron skillet over medium-low heat for 5 minutes to preheat.
- Blend the salsa: While the pan is pre-heating, drop the garlic cloves in a running blender and let them process completely. Stop the blender, add the can of chipotles en adobo and the can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, and scrape down the sides of the blender with a spatula. Slowly speed the blender up to high speed and blend for 1 minute, or until completely pureed.
- Cook the duck breast: Lay the duck in the pan, skin side down. Cook skin side down until the skin is browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the duck breasts to a plate and pour off the fat, leaving a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Put the pan back over the heat and lay the duck in the pan skin side up. Cook the duck to 135°F in the thickest part for medium (125°F for medium-rare), about 3 more minutes.
- Serve: Let the duck rest for five minutes, then slice crosswise into ½ inch thick slices. Serve with the salsa. I serve by spreading a spoonful of the salsa on a tortilla, fanning out a few pieces of duck breast, then topping with a pinch of shredded lettuce, cheese, and cilantro.
The chipotle salsa is HOT. If that’s too much for you, use your own favorite salsa recipe instead, or go with (medium heat) Toasted Ancho Salsa.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Cast Iron
- Cuisine: Mexican
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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