This gorgeous gluten-free and very keto-friendly five-spice duck recipe by the chefs at San Francisco’s Foreign Cinema restaurant is our all-time favorite dinner party entree. Its flavor is exceptional, it’s incredibly easy to prepare, and it feeds a crowd at a surprisingly affordable cost (provided you can find frozen duck breasts, which we have in our local Whole Foods in California). Try it and you’ll love it, too. For optimal results, cook the skin until it’s crispy and most of the fat has cooked off. Bonus: you learn how to make your own five spice here! Note: here, the duck is served with quick-pickled julienned celery root, but you can serve it with anything you wish–sweet potato mash, smashed potatoes, salad, anything!
Five-Spice Duck Breast
- 1 tablespoon ground star anise (about 5 whole)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 3 (8 to 12-ounce) duck breasts
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- Generous pinch flaky salt
In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the star anise, shaking the pan frequently, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the fennel seeds to the hot pan and toast, shaking continually, until fragrant and a little darker, about 3 minutes. Cool on a plate, then grind both spices in a clean spice or coffee grinder to medium-fine. Transfer the spices to a small bowl and mix in the cloves, cinnamon, and pepper.
Using a sharp paring knife, score the skin of the duck with a slight surface cut in a crisscross pattern 1⁄2 inch apart to help render the fat and allow seasoning to penetrate. Rub and coat the duck with the salt, five-spice seasoning, and olive oil. Refrigerate until use, ideally at least 3 hours.
Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Set the duck skin-side up in the skillet and sear for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook skin-side down to render the skin until nearly all the fat has been rendered and you're left with a crispy, thin layer of skin, about 9 minutes. Turn over and cook until duck breasts are medium rare, 4 to 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and let the duck rest for 7 minutes, then cut into thin slices, drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with flaky salt, and serve.