A cross between a Muscovy drake and a Pekin hen, the Moulard duck is a sizable bird with a well-developed breast. It also is the preferred duck used to produce foie gras, because of its large size and hearty constitution. Since Gascony, France is the heart of foie gras country, the Moulard duck is common in the cooking of the region. The magret refers to the breast of a Moulard duck that has been reared for foie gras, and it provides moist, red, meaty flesh with rich flavor.
Throughout history, the magret was made into confit, like the wing and leg of the duck, slowly cooked in duck fat and preserved. But in 1959, at the Hotel de France in Auch, two-star Michelin Chef André Daguin prepared a magret like a steak for the first time. Like many legendary moments in culinary history, this one came about by necessity one afternoon when a salesman arrived at the hotel restaurant for a late lunch. Chef Daguin found his kitchen bare of ingredients, but for a tray of raw magrets waiting to be cooked in fat. He grabbed one and seared it like a steak, then served it rare to the surprised patron, who shared the curious dish with two other customers just finishing their lunches. And thus was born a staple duck dish, found today on menus worldwide. A certain Ariane Daguin, who would grow up to establish D’Artagnan in America, learned many lessons from her chef father over the years, and enjoys teaching how easy it is to prepare the “duck steak.”
CookingTo prepare duck magret, trim away excess fat that extends beyond the edge of the meat if necessary. Then score the fat side, season with salt and pepper, and place skin side down in a hot cast iron pan. No fat or oil is needed. Cook for about 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and flip the breast over, cooking for about 4 minutes. Make sure the duck is not cooked beyond medium rare. Lots of duck fat will collect in the pan, so remove some of it and set aside or discard. Let the magret rest for five minutes, then slice into 1/8” slices and serve. Seared magret works well with all kinds of sauces and chutneys, and pairs with dark red wines like Malbec or Madiran.
RECIPE SUGGESTIONS: Magret à la D'ArtagnanMagret of Duck with Fig and Shallot CompoteDuck Breasts with Black Olives